Flying a drone in Coeur d’Alene

October 28, 2019

Not sure where you can legally fly? We can help. 

As you might have noticed, while taking a walk downtown, drones have become very common.

At Fixed Focus Media we use them for Real Estate photograph/video, aerial b-roll, and artistic panoramic photography.

We have a few tips before you head out on your first flight or your 100th. There are some very important rules and regulations about flying in Coeur d’Alene that even took us some time to learn. 

 Regulations

#1 In order to fly your drone for commercial or promotional use you must obtain a Part 107 certificate. This applies even if you’re not selling your photos or videos for money.

Think about it like this. If you are going to use the images or videos to promote anything or anyone, that is in any way related to a business, you need a Part 107 license. The only way you can fly a drone without a Part 107 license is if you plan to keep the images and videos all to yourself. Then you are considered a hobbyist.

#2 There are very specific spaces you can fly in Coeur d’Alene.

If you are a “hobbyist” flyer you can never fly in Class E Airspace. If you are a licensed Part 107 pilot you CAN fly in Class E Airspace with FAA authorization.

Coeur d’Alene Airport creates a Class E Airspace that covers half of Cd’A and most of Post Falls.

Luckily the FAA recently launched LAANC which has created the ability to get authorization for licensed drone operators to fly in Class E airspace.

There are 10+ companies now offering authorization and I’ve found Skyward to be the most user-friendly. Below is a tutorial for how to use their interface to obtain instant authorization using their website.  

#3 Part 107 licensed or not you MUST follow FAA regulations when flying in Class E or Class G (open) airspace.

  • Fly at or below 400 feet
  • Fly within visual line-of-sight, meaning you as the drone operator use your own eyes and needed contacts or glasses (without binoculars), to ensure you can see your drone at all times.
  • Never fly near other aircraft.
  • Never fly over groups of people, public events, or stadiums full of people.
  • Never fly near or over emergency response efforts.
  • Never fly at night.

In my experience the most difficult rule to follow is the Visual Line-of-Site rule. Line of site means you must be able to see your drone at all times. Following this rule has required me to move around a lot more when trying to get a good shot. Hike up hills more and find a perfect vantage spot.

The Danger Is Real

Though I have always tried to be mindful and professional I admit in the beginning I sometimes flew my drone without proper knowledge for what was allowed and what wasn’t. In the last few years the FAA has done an amazing job making the rules clearer and easy to follow.

When you first get a drone you want to fly it everywhere! It’s amazing and is capable of limitless creative opportunities. But more than 5 years in I now realize truly how dangerous it is to ignore the rules.

Just yesterday (October 24th) I was downtown in the city park flying my drone to get some Fall pictures. As you’ll see in the picture below the Class E airspace literally cuts right through downtown, the Coeur d’Alene Resort, and south down the lake.

 

Right after my first flight, I heard another drone take off. I looked over and noticed it coming from the parking lot and flying quickly over downtown and Sherman. 

Then it zipped out past the resort and over the water. Meaning into Class E Airspace. Not more than 10 minutes later a helicopter flew right by at the exact same elevation as that drone! 

I presumed the individual flying the drone was probably not licensed or following any FAA regulations or restrictions. And I know this probably happens everyday in Coeur d’Alene. Crazy thing people don’t realize is: The FAA could fine you up to $27,500 for civil penalties and/or up to $250,000 for criminal penalties. HOLY COW! 

I’m putting this information out there to try and help create a culture of aerial drone photography and videography that keeps everyone safe and helps prevent an accident that could majorly cripple our industry locally. It would only take one careless accident for the city to enact major restrictions.  

 Please use the resources available to fly safe and let us know if you have any questions we are happy to help! 

Important Resources

Skyward: Class E Airspace flight authorization

This year the FAA opened up airspace authorization to private companies under LAANC. 

LAANCE stands for Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability. 

Visualize It: FAA Data Map

Use this map to locate FAA airspace information.

Use Skyward to get authorization for flying in Class E Airspace with a Part 107 License. 

Use Visualize It to find airport information anywhere in the United States. 

Getting a part 107

Getting a Part 107 Certificate isn’t easy but not impossible either. I used a three-prong approach.

1. I purchased a subscription to Drone Launch Academy.  This allowed me to work through the material with videos and tests from a company that knows what it takes to pass the test.

2. I made a TON of flashcards. Yep simple good ole flash cards. The reality is there are a lot of possible questions and you don’t know which ones they are going to ask. Best to prepare for all of them.

3. I watched this video all the way through TWICE!  Video Link