Unlicensed Operator Friend or Foe

The problem of unlicensed drone flyers taking the work of licensed operators is not an easy one to solve. I have a few suggestions.

I make my living flying a drone and I am licensed and insured. It is my full time job.

I pay probably 3.000 Euro a year to provide a service to the market that is legal and safe.

I have lost out on countless jobs because someone thought I was ‘overpriced’.

And that customer went and found someone who would do it cheaper and most probably without permission, because they were unlicensed.

You would think by now I’d view unlicensed operators, like this guy below, as a scourge:

Hobby Flyers - Friend of Foe

But I don’t.

There will always be someone who is going to try and make some money to support their hobby.

Let’s put this into perspective.

The licensed drone operators in the world are less than 10,000.

The drones sold in 2015 by DJI, 3D Robotics and Parrot are estimated to be in the region of 1,6 Million.

You can regulate, but it’s difficult to police.

Nor do I think you can eliminate it simply geo-fencing the drone.

Be it family, friends, or people they know, unlicensed flyers will always find ways to make some money flying their drone.

So what do we do?

In my opinion, I think the solution is two fold.

1) Make Buyers More Aware Of The Risks Of Hiring Unlicensed Operators

Let’s start finding ways to make buyers more aware of their risk when hiring unlicensed operators.

Let’s offer them a way to easily pick service providers who can keep the buyer’s risk low.

If most buyers of content understood the true cost of their decision to run with an unlicensed operator then they would think twice.

The drone goes up, and if something awful happens, the buyer is in for a long relationship with YouTube, bad press, insurance claims, police, court, and who knows what…all because they stepped up to the dance without knowing or even caring what their new partners could do.

2) Integrate Unlicensed Operators Into The License System, As Much As Possible

Let’s start shifting our engagement with unlicensed operators from being one of hostility to one of integration.

What I mean by that is maybe the way to minimize the hazard and market sucking effect of unlicensed operators is to give them easy access to many clients who like their work and would pay for them to be licensed?

These are the guys and gals who are probably pushing limits in their own ways, and probably have something to offer to the industry if it was channeled correctly.

I hear many licensed pilots clamouring for more enforcement and more action to go after rogue pilots, but while I think the regulations and structure need to be there, it’s going to be a game of whack-a-mole until the the onus is shifted to the buyers of the content generated by drones.