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Flying Over People

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amcgibbon

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I have been hired by an "agency" to fly a drone job over a shopping center. The shopping center has a large parking lot in front that extends quite a ways out. Their specs require a push shot, orbit shot, rise and reverse, eagle eye, drop and rise shots.

I have had my license since October of 2016 and have always taken the "don't fly over people" rule very literally. I called the agency yesterday to ask them how they wanted me to acquire some of the photographs and videos without flying over people? Their interpretation of "don't fly over people" was a little startling. They interpret it to mean "groups of people." I quote them here: "if we can't fly over single individuals we can't see or avoid, we would never fly at all."

I would appreciate any feedback on a) their response; and b) thoughts on how to accomplish this shoot.
 

LUIS MARTINEZ

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I have been hired by an "agency" to fly a drone job over a shopping center. The shopping center has a large parking lot in front that extends quite a ways out. Their specs require a push shot, orbit shot, rise and reverse, eagle eye, drop and rise shots.

I have had my license since October of 2016 and have always taken the "don't fly over people" rule very literally. I called the agency yesterday to ask them how they wanted me to acquire some of the photographs and videos without flying over people? Their interpretation of "don't fly over people" was a little startling. They interpret it to mean "groups of people." I quote them here: "if we can't fly over single individuals we can't see or avoid, we would never fly at all."

I would appreciate any feedback on a) their response; and b) thoughts on how to accomplish this shoot.
"They interpret it to mean "groups of people." Wrong. Flying over one or a crowd is a violation of 107.39.
 

BigAl07

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  • A) Currently we can't fly over the pinky of a person who isn't directly responsible for the SAFETY of the sUAS flight.
  • B) This can only be accomplished with no one around or if they want to create a Closed Set environment and then "try" to get a 333 Exemption for that. Some people might suggest trying for Waiver ~107.39 but you're not going to get that in this situation.

That 'agency" needs to call their local FSDO to get the official clarification but they aren't going to like what they hear... actually they won't call. Fortunately, if they are found guilty of hiring ILLEGAL work their fine will be significant to say the least.
 

amcgibbon

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So BigAI07, it is expected that we must NEVER fly over people, even inadvertently? Is that realistically possible?

Thinking about places I've shot, sometimes I'm flying in Newark, NJ (with airspace authorization where needed) where if you move your drone laterally the slightest bit, you could be over a block where someone is walking down the street and not even know it. So this means we can only hover directly above ourselves and shoot. Think about all the drone and video images you have seen, those were all shot without EVER flying over someone?

Please know I am not trying to be argumentative in the least. I'm just trying to understand what other people are doing in these circumstances.

Thank you to all who have replied.
 

PatR

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The FAA makes public safety our individual responsibility. They “advise” we employ risk mitigation practices to assure public safety and safe operation of flight. Risk mitigation might require an operator employ people on the ground to clear an area of people and advise when people were present that would require delay of flight. If the area could not be kept clear of people the only remaining method of mitigating risk is to cancel the flight.

The regulations do not make an exception for inadvertent over flight. If someone was there that you could have flown over and did so you would be in violation because you failed to provide due diligence in taking the necessary actions that would have prevented the over flight. The word “negligent” would likely also be used to describe the inadvertent over flight of people not directly involved with the flight.

Although we’ve all seen pictures and videos where it is obvious people were overflown we can’t use them as justification for us to do the same. They got away with it because nothing happened, and nobody reported it.

The moment something happens we can be certain we won’t get away with it. Someone will report it, someone might need medical attention, there might be property damage, whatever happened might cause a chain reaction incident. When chit happens we won’t be able to use “inadvertent” as an excuse as someone will start looking to determine if the incident was “preventable”. If cancellation of a flight would have prevented an “accident” the definition of the event would instantly change from accident to incident and everything goes downhill from there.
 
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MapMaker53

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Personally, I think it is more dangerous to be standing under the flight path of a 737, but I do my best not to fly over people with my little drone. I wonder how UPS, USPS, Amazon, and anyone else allowed to fly BLOS will avoid flying over people. And therein lies the rub. Meanwhile, the FAA allows aerial shows to be conducted mere yards from massive crowds where one small pilot error with jets screaming a few feet past each other can cause a huge number of deaths and injury. Pretty ironic.
 
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BigAl07

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First off I'll say... @PatR pretty much nailed it.

So BigAI07, it is expected that we must NEVER fly over people, even inadvertently? Is that realistically possible?
It's not easy and it definitely adds to our workload but it is EXPECTED!

It's important to note that more often than not, the FAA is not going to get ruffled unless there is an incident. If there is any type of incident and a person on the ground is even barely graized you are at fault.
Thinking about places I've shot, sometimes I'm flying in Newark, NJ (with airspace authorization where needed) where if you move your drone laterally the slightest bit, you could be over a block where someone is walking down the street and not even know it. So this means we can only hover directly above ourselves and shoot. Think about all the drone and video images you have seen, those were all shot without EVER flying over someone?
This is where we employ additional help to "Ensure Safety" at all cost.

It's squarely on our shoulders to make sure we do everything in our power to follow the rules and keep aviation safe.
 
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Perch

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New here, and this post was relevant to questions I've had. I've been flying for only a short time, but already realize that not flying over people can be difficult and I've had to tell clients that I could not do certain flights. Was hired to shoot part of a concert and had tell tell them flat out I could only shoot from distance and not go over the crowd. Had to explain the FAA regulation. They weren't too happy about it, but they got over it. Also explained that shooting 4k and editing 1080, I could cheat it a bit, which helped in the client's mind. Unfortunately, when the drone went up, kids flocked to the area, which made a whole new problem... I have seen footage lately that has made me question all that, so glad I came across this forum and post. Footage where people fly over interstate highway traffic. Yes, those people are enclosed, but still, to me, is in violation of this regulation. Any thoughts on that? Sorry, if this seems like hi-jacking the post, but still along the same regulation lines.
 

LUIS MARTINEZ

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Flying over moving cars is a violation of 107.39. There's no ambiguity in the regulation:

§ 107.39 Operation over human beings.
No person may operate a small unmanned aircraft over a human being unless that human being is:

(a) Directly participating in the operation of the small unmanned aircraft; or

(b) Located under a covered structure or inside a stationary vehicle that can provide reasonable protection from a falling small unmanned aircraft.
 

Perch

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That was always my take on it. Don't remember the "stationary" part of that reg. Thanks!

I'll keep doing what I do, until the flying over people reg is changed. I've heard the rumors.

Flying over moving cars is a violation of 107.39. There's no ambiguity in the regulation:

§ 107.39 Operation over human beings.
No person may operate a small unmanned aircraft over a human being unless that human being is:

(a) Directly participating in the operation of the small unmanned aircraft; or

(b) Located under a covered structure or inside a stationary vehicle that can provide reasonable protection from a falling small unmanned aircraft.
 

BigAl07

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Welcome to the forum Perch.

Sometimes we gotta be the bad guy and let the clients know what they want and what we can do may not be exactly the same thing. Best solution is to offer a safe & legal alternative to anything they ask that you can't do.
 

RickMC

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Glad the FAA is going to change the rules.
 
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BryanD

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How the agency interprets the rules is irrelevant. The FAA makes it clear.
In 2020, there may well be some changes regarding flight over people and how we, Remote Pilots, accomplish that.

Very informative video. Thanks for sharing!
 

R.Perry

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It is obvious the FAA is getting a lot of heat about overflight of people. I talking to one of the FAA guys at the Stockton CA airport regarding enforcement of overflights and BVLOS, and he just laughed and said what enforcement, we don't have the manpower to investigate half of the complaints. He said the reality most likely a problem will accrue if there is an accident and someone is injured, back to the wild west days. Now that was on persons opinion and that could be completely different in other locations. My point is the FAA hasn't figured out how to deal with these issues, but they are working on it and that is a step in the right direction. I for one will follow the rules to the best of my ability, so I'm not implying the lack of enforcement is an opportunity to break the law.
UC San Diego, drone pilot almost hit a student, complaint was filed, nothing was ever done about it, to me that is serious and should have been dealt with.
 

drone Pilot

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Flying over people is a joke and a unreasonable policy that needs to be addressed to allow for some flexibility, (not a waiver) Unless an area of flight is an enclosed perimeter, preventing a person from walking into a flight pattern is unforeseeable.
Oxymoron Alert: FAA has determined that airspace is public, therefore, how do you stop citizens from walking onto a UAV flight pattern, when they have a public right to be there ? Can't have it both ways, either you restrict specific airspace from all UAV flying or restrict the public from entry onto certain airspace. The rights of both a UAV pilot and the public must be addressed but will not until a lawsuit and the courts come down with a decision.
Until then FAA unreasonable policies will not be adhered to by ALL.
 
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