construction site drone

Ask Drone Girl: how can I fly over people for commercial purposes?

Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about drone photography classes. If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.

If a contractor wants me to take aerial footage of their construction site progress over three years — once a year — what’s the exact FAA rule about flying above people?

Isn’t it forbidden unless they’re part of the video project? Or with a waiver (which can take up to 90 days)? Can the drone be above construction workers? Above moving cars from the streets next to the site? Above people walking in these streets? Even if 90% of the time the drone will be only above the site?

Hey there!

I reached out to my friend and brilliant drone lawyer Loretta Alkalay, to ensure you get an accurate answer to your question.

Here goes:

A commercial operation would require compliance with the new Part 107 regulations, including using a pilot in command who holds a remote pilot certificate. 

As far as flights over people,  under 14 CFR Section 107. 39, flights over human beings are prohibited unless the person is involved with operation of the drone or is under a covered structure or inside a stationary vehicle that can provide reasonable protection in the event of a falling drone.

So, this section would prohibit flights directly over construction workers, people in moving vehicles, pedestrians  and others not participating in the actual drone operation.

Part 107 does allow for waivers of this regulation but what standards or mitigating measures will be required to get a waiver is still not clear.  The FAA has asked people to submit waiver requests 90 days in advance but that doesn’t mean waivers will necessarily be issued in that time frame.


  • Dave Brown says:

    Great answer to a very common question/request.

    I’m curious if you have any insight into when more waivers will be granted? ~80 of them were released at the initial roll out of Part 107 – but nothing since.

    Thanks Sally!

  • Wouldn’t the footage be ok to use as long as the faces are blurred?

  • SilveradoCyn says:

    Blurring faces is for privacy rights. The FAA rules are for public safety.
    The spirit of the ruling is to prevent drone flights over crowds, but in an abundance of caution, the FAA rules protect everyone from overflights.
    A drone crashing onto a moving car could easily cause a far worse accident with the potential for loss of life. A drone hitting an person can potentially cause lethal injuries.
    I totally understand where the FAA is coming from on this, and why the rules are written this way.

  • Captain Ron says:

    That’s the safe answer for sure. But, what does flying over someone mean? If you’re hovering 200ft high and there is someone 100ft laterally to the side is that over?…what if they’re 200ft laterally?…..what does flying or hovering over someone mean?…..Haven’t seen a good explanation of this yet… some point you’re not over them….what is that point?

Leave a Reply