Logik TV – Episode 32: Fly Drones? Do You Need An SFOC?
Drone lovers! We’re back with another episode of DroneLogik!
In our last episode, Legal Logik attorney Jamie Benizri and Vozwin aviation specialist Sean Smith explored the use of drones for commercial purposes. But if you’re like us, you may also want to fly drones just for fun!
So… what are the rules for recreational flying? Well, whether you are flying for fun or for commercial purposes, there are circumstances when you need a permit!
In this episode, Jamie and Sean explore the SFOC, or Special Flight Operations Certificate and when you need to get one before liftoff.
Questions tackled include:
- What is an SFOC?
- Where are you flying?
- What are you flying?
- Why are you flying?
- What if you break the rules?
Play by PlayJamie: Hi guys, welcome back to another episode of Logik TV. And I am with Sean Smith. Sean, in the last episode, we got to know a little bit about your background and about the industry and the opportunities. I want to get a more specific as to who can fly and actual drone. Am I allowed to go with my son in the park and fly a drone? Am I allowed to do it in the streets? So tell us a little bit about what an SFOC is and what those requirements are in terms of flying.
Sean: Sure. If you’re going with your son as a hobbyist, to go down to the park, that’s okay, but the thing you need to realize is that parks are considered to be emergency landing sites for helicopters, so technically, you’re not—
Jamie: Real helicopters?
Sean: Yeah, like real ones, like if things go really bad, that is where they’re allowed to land legally. Now an SFOC, or a Special Flight Order Certificate, is really complicated. There’s a lot of different parameters that feed into the right answer to that, so what I always say to people is that there are three questions you should really ask yourself. The first one is, “Where am I going to be flying?” If you’re going to be flying within 9km of an airport or of an urban area, yeah, you’re going to need one. If you’re flying, or you know you’re going to be flying, about 150 meters commercially from a building, from people or animals, so like a farm, electrical installations, you’re going to need one. The second question you’re going to want to ask yourself is, “What am I flying?” So what weight classifications is your platform? Is it under 2 kilograms? If it is, chances are, you may not need one, but if you are flying out of the exemption rules, you’re going to need an SFOC. If you are flying between 2 kilograms and 25 kilograms, you may not require an SFOC, but if you don’t require one, you’re going to need to let the government know that you are going to be flying underneath the exemption rules, because of your weight class, they want to know if you’re flying. Now, if you’re over 25 kilograms, yeah, you’re going to need permission. Now the third one is going to be, “What is the purpose?” Is it commercial? Is it for a hobby? Am I flying over a bridge? Am I flying over a highway? A populated area? A crowd? If it’s yes to all of those, or any of them, yeah, you’re going to need an SFOC.
Jamie: So it’s basically a permit?
Sean: It is. It is a one-time use permit.
Jamie: So let’s talk about the exemptions because if I’m with my son, the drone is this big. So let’s talk a little bit about if I’m with him, and we’re on the street, is he allowed to pilot his little teeny drone essentially?
Sean: Right. So because you are a hobbyist, you don’t really fall underneath the SFOCs because that’s really about commercialized usages, but there are some things you need to be aware of, even as a hobbyist. So, like we were saying, the size of your drone is going to be one thing, because it’s about the potential injury that you can impose onto the public, based on the trajectory and kinetic energy that it will impose. Now the exemption rules are currently in place, but they’re going to expire in December, around mid-December. So what’s going to end up happening moving forward is that you’re going to need to do a whole bunch more work if you’re doing things commercially in terms of registering, making sure you’re licensed, making sure that you’re meeting very strict airworthiness standards.
Jamie: So if I disregard the rules behind the SFOC, or if I don’t get that permit at all, tell me about the consequences that I can expect.
Sean: So, if you’re flying without an SFOC for commercial usage, a person can be fined up to $5,000 and a corporation can be fined up to $25,000. Now, that being said, if you are flying with an SFOC but you’re not following the rules or the guidelines that are laid out within that application, in that permit, you can be fined as an individual $3,000 and as a corporation $15,000.
Jamie: So it’s probably a good idea to look into the permit requirements?
Jamie: So for any information about drones, about the requirements of that SFOC permit, you should be reaching out to Sean Smith and inquiring about when the right time to set up your business is, and about his services. So comments, write to him directly, and stay tuned for more.