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  • Writer's pictureAdam Garr

Drones and the Golf Course Superintendent


Drones are a fantastic tool to have on the golf course. From aerial photography of a stripe show, timelapse of agronomic practices, and documenting things like drainage and shade patterns, drones have become pretty commonplace for superintendents to throw up in the sky whenever the need arises.


But are you breaking the law and putting your employment at risk the moment that drone leaves the ground at work?





Let’s get started with some basic true and false questions.


You must have a Remote Pilot Certification to fly a drone in the United States. FALSE. You may operate a drone “for fun,” which is considered recreational use, provided you register your drone with the FAA and pass The Recreational UAS Safety Test (TRUST). Recreational use is considered for hobby purposes only, such as exploring a coastline or forest.


You must have a Remote Pilot Certification to fly a drone at work, for any purpose whatsoever. TRUE. Any use of a drone at the workplace is considered a commercial purpose, whether the club ever uses it on the website or not. You must have your Remote Pilot License—FAA Part 107–to fly a drone on a golf course. Period, end of story.

We see a lot of pictures from the sky on social media these days. We may assume every one of these superintendents have their FAA Part 107, but in reality that percentage is probably less than 10%.


I know what you’re probably thinking—big deal, I’m not hurting anybody. And I might be inclined to agree with you on some level, until it becomes a big deal.


For starters, almost every drone today is being watched by “big brother.” Every flight is recorded, and drone detection technology has made leaps and bounds by law enforcement (just ask the guys who got busted after flying over Augusta National this April). If something were to happen, there is no deniability if that drone is registered to you or to the club.


What happens when an accident occurs? And it will occur, given enough time. Technology is fallible, especially when it is piloted by a human operator. It might be a violation of airspace, a near miss with another aircraft, or a crash involving property or people on the ground.


What happens then? You’re probably going to be thrown to the curb by your employer, is the most likely scenario. The FAA may investigate the incident and if they find you in violation of FAA regulations, you could be looking at a hefty fine of upwards of $25,000. Worse yet, if someone was injured or property damaged in the incident, you could also end up in court facing a seven-figure lawsuit.


What if someone were to report you based on a social media post? The FAA must investigate any report of a drone concern, and that would include someone reporting you anonymously for not having a license. Just a word of warning, the world is watching now. Be careful.


The best way to be careful? Be legal. Get your Part 107 and keep that drone in the case at work until you do.

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