New heights: Commercial drones and P3DR

By JJ Moran July 30, 2020 | GEOINT Community

Image caption: Complex Washington, D.C., aeronautical chart—courtesy of

J.J., deputy program director in Vricon’s Orlando office, is a licensed drone pilot. This is part 1 in a series about drones. Read part 2 here.

Drones have exploded in popularity in the last few years. If you have been into a retail store that sells electronics, odds are you have seen remote-controlled quadcopters for sale. 

But what most do not realize is that the Federal Aviation Administration has steadily been regulating drone use—including mandatory FAA registration of drones that are more than half a pound. In fact, most drone hobbyists operate in a regulatory gray area as soon as they use their drones beyond recreation, for example: selling video footage or checking their homes for damage after storms.

If someone is flying a drone beyond “recreational use,” they will need an FAA-issued commercial drone license, also referred to as a Part 107 license. This requires passing a proctored exam and a background investigation by the FAA. The license must be renewed every 24 months and requires reexamination to ensure the pilot’s knowledge is current.

I took a distance-learning course to prepare for the Part 107 exam. The course required two to three hours of study each day for four weeks. Each section covered a relevant subject, such as physics, meteorology, and FAA regulations. Having an educational background in geography definitely made some of those sections easier to comprehend.

Arguably the hardest skill to master when becoming a drone pilot is being able to read complex aeronautical charts, as shown below. This skill is critical to ensuring that the drone is not entering any restricted airspace or interfering with air traffic control operations.

Vricon can leverage your drone-collected scans into our P3DR and increase the fidelity of any terrain with high accuracy. P3DR synthesizes the Vricon Globe in 3D with sophisticated algorithms to quickly and accurately georegister your sensor data, anywhere.

And, while drones are excellent for obtaining aerial photos, Vricon can get you near-equivalent data without the need for FAA licensing or requesting access to a site from the operating authority. Let us know how we can help take your project to new heights!