This might seem like a fairly straightforward question, however, the realm of drone law is a tricky one, and one that’s constantly evolving.
As the law stands at the time of writing (early 2016), flying a drone at a wedding for commercial purposes (i.e. taking video or photos for payment) may or may not be legal, depending on the status of the individual or photographic company that’s performing the work.
Under current legal regulations, the UAV (drone) operator must hold an exemption certificate from the FAA for commercial flight purposes. Easy enough you make think, except in order for the FAA to grant this exemption, they require the aerial operator to hold a pilot’s license. Clearly this is a tall order and so although they are clearly taking a legal risk, most drone companies are forging ahead with wedding bookings in the knowledge that the authorities are so overwhelmed with the rise of drone activity, they can’t possibly monitor or prosecute all those that don’t have clearance. Given that the legal situation is likely to change anyway, operators may not be taking this risk for very long.
For now, this FAA page is a good resource for those who want to dig deeper into the legalities of commercial drone operation.
The question of exemption certificates and the general rules that govern drone flight aside, there may also be local state, or city ordinances that dictate how and when drones may fly.
Additionally, on August 28, 2015, the FAA released B4UFLY to approximately 1,000 beta testers, including members of industry, government, and the public. B4UFLY is an easy to use smartphone app that hat will tell UAV operators if there are “unmanned aircraft (drone)” flying restrictions based on their location.
For the purposes of a couple considering having aerial photographs or video taken at their wedding, there may be more immediate questions concerning wedding photography experience, equipment and price and we will deal with these issues in another blog.
With drone law constantly evolving, it seems likely that the legal situation will almost certainly undergo further revision in 2016. For the latest news and updates on the law, keep an eye on our wedding day drone website.