QUESTION: One of our board members inspected our roofers with a drone and filmed them. Is it legal to film a contractor without his agreement? Do we need board approval to have a drone flying above the HOA?
ANSWER: Yes, you need approval both from the board of directors and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Hobby Exemption. To fly a drone without registering it requires that it be flown strictly for hobby or recreational use. (Public Law 112-95 section 336. and 14 CFR § 101.41) The FAA has applied model aircraft guidelines to drones, which they classify as "unmanned aircraft systems" (Interpretation of Special Rule for Model Aircraft), also known as "unmanned aerial vehicles" (UAVs). A board member using a drone to inspect and film the HOA's roofing company would likely be deemed a "business" purpose not recreational.
Business Purposes. FAA policy specifically excludes the use of unmanned aircraft systems for business purposes. (72 FR at 6690.) Business purposes are not limited to for-profit companies but would apply to non-profit associations as well. I know it seems silly but that means a board member flying his drone to document roof work for the association should apply for an exemption.
Recommendation: Under current FAA guidelines, associations should not use drones for business purposes such as inspecting common areas, monitoring vendors, documenting rules violations, etc. without first getting an exemption from the FAA.
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