Non-recreational pilots want to practice at our field. Now what?

Model aircraft have flown recreationally within the safety guidelines of the AMA for more than 80 years and have achieved an excellent safety record. Find out how to safely integrate commercial flights at your flying site.

Whether it’s a local business testing its equipment or a fire department training first responders, AMA clubs are often approached to allow commercial operations at their flying sites. Although there are various aspects to consider before any non-recreational operation, AMA encourages its clubs to take advantage of these opportunities. Partnerships with local businesses or public safety offices can build rapport and be a donation source for clubs to host future events or use toward minor site improvements.

When clubs welcome commercial flying, they attract new pilots to their field who often become interested in fixed-wing or rotary-wing aircraft. Education is the key to ensuring that new hobbyists fly within the guidelines and know how and where to fly safely. Our hobby has faced many challenges and we know the entire modeling community benefits when we speak with one voice. Allowing non-recreational flights at your site will establish the club as innovators in the aeromodeling community—a great reputation when working with your community leaders and legislators.

Edit: If your flying site is not owned by the club, permission from the property owner will need to
be obtained to use the site for commercial ventures.

The commercial entity should obtain and carry its own insurance coverage. In most cases they will have to name the property owner as an additional insured. Preferably, we would also want them to add your club and the AMA as additional insureds to their policy. This would extend the commercial coverage procured by the entity to the club (and AMA) for liability incidents caused by them and might alleviate some of insurance concerns.

If the commercial entity causes an accident and the club is named in a claim/suit, the Westchester policy provided through AMA would respond with a defense on behalf of the club until a coverage determination has been made.

33 comments

  1. Makes Sense. Hopefully, the commercial drone pilot’s won’t start acting cocky, or acting like they have more right to be at the field than the Average Joe Pilot (like me).

    1. I understand your concern. Each situation is handled differently, in most cases usage of the field can be worked out between the club, property owner, and the commercial entity.

  2. If they are not AMA nor club members, what is the proper procedure to “safely integrate” flights at our field? I know to explain flight rules, boundaries, etc….but would they be covered under AMA insurance? Are there guidelines for this? I don’t want to put our field in jeopardy due to an unfortunate incident and some of the commercial things I have been approached about won’t allow for a “buddy box” system.

    1. I understand your concerns. Based on the follow up inquiries, we have edited the blog post to include some additional details. Please take a moment to review the information. Would you be available for a brief phone conversation next week to discuss some additional details?

      1. Sorry for just now getting back to this…hectic holiday schedule. Thank you for the edit of additional details…it clarifies things a bit more. And yes, I am available fur a phone conversation if it is still needed.

  3. What about possible liability insurance issues involved in letting a commercial entity use our club field? Will our club insurance cover them in case of an accident?

    1. The commercial entity should have their own liability insurance coverage. Also, please keep in mind that unless your club owns its flying site, you want to make sure your property owner is aware and in agreement with the commercial operation.

  4. This article fails to clarify if the club needs to verify that the Commercial flyer has their own insurance. If the flying session of a commercial business is strictly “practice”, do they need insurance coverage (other than AMA membership). Could AMA staff respond to the general membership on this?

    1. Unless the club owns its own flying site, the final decision to allow or deny commercial entities to use the property would be up to the property owner. It would also be the property owner’s responsibility to verify the entity’s insurance coverage. More than likely, they will ask to be named as an additional insured, and if possible, we would like for the club to be named as well.
      Practice flights should be covered under the entity’s insurance. Keep in mind that employees (or owners) of a commercial entity could also be recreational enthusiasts as one does not exclude the other.

  5. That is the correct approach. We as AMA members need to become educators within our great hobby. By doing so we keep a watchful eye on what is happening around our flying sites.

  6. I agree with what you have stated, but don’t think you have gone far enough in this discussion. If our club participates in this type of activity, are we covered under the insurance we have in place through AMA? Just what liability is involved here, and are we protected, or do we need some other legal agreement with the business/agency using our field for training/practice?

    1. You are correct, there are a lot of other aspects to be considered. The article was intended to serve as a brief overview. However, based on some of the follow up inquiries, we will consider editing the blog post to provide more detailed information.
      Unless a club owns its own flying site, the officers may not have the authority to allow a commercial entity to use the property. The first step should be to contact the property owner and make them aware of the commercial entity’s request. The final decision is up to each property owner.
      As you know, AMA’s membership insurance is limited to recreational activities; therefore, the commercial entity should be required to have its own liability insurance coverage. Most likely property owners will ask to be named as additional insured, and if possible, we recommend for clubs to be named as additional insured as well.

  7. All well and good but what about insurance coverage for the site owner and club??? If AMA does not cover “commercial” flying how does the club protect itself?

    1. More than likely a property owner will request insurance coverage from the commercial entity and may ask to be named as an additional insured. We recommend for the club to ask for the same.

  8. If there would be some type of accident either to someone or something by the commercial operator or to one of the commercial operators while using the field, would are clubs liability insurance through the AMA still protect our club in the event of a lawsuit?

    1. We recommend for the property owner, and the club to named as an additional insured under the commercial entity’s liability insurance. This would extend the commercial coverage procured by the entity to the club for liability incidents caused by them.

      As it stand, if the commercial entity causes an accident and the club is named in a claim/suit, the Westchester policy provided through AMA would respond with a defense on behalf of the club until a coverage determination has been made.

    1. The commercial/non-recreational pilot would be required for follow the rules of his or her Part 107 Remote Pilot Certificate, 333 Exemption, or Certificate of Authorization (COA). Portions of these commercial/non-recreational requirements will not align with all club rules.

      1. AMA

        Please quit mixing commercial use with hobby use. Every club member has to follow club rules period no exceptions.

        Any club that gets involved with this will be shut down within days from the local governments because of the conditional use permits required by most local government body’s.

        Who’s bright idea was this?
        Do you really think club officers and members are going to take the personal risk of being dragged into a lawsuit by allowing commercial use and not following club rules.

        Toss this idea in the garage can!
        It’s a non starter…

      2. Well in that case I would be concerned that it puts clubs in jeopardy – say rules that have been followed and needed to maintain adjacent neighbors conditions It would be my opinion that all club rules should be followed if that 107 pilot is allowed to fly at a club field

  9. Our club, Rocky Mountain Soaring Association, has already been approached by a commercial entity to allow drone training to our local law enforcement agencies at our sod farm site. We do not own or operate the sod farm so we have asked the entity to approach the sod farm owner directly. We haven’t heard any since.

  10. Is this an about face based on current realities? I was told the AMA would not permit a National Geographic photographer to train with his new drone on our field before he took it on an assignment. Was it the AMA or our landlord, the county parks system, who refused him access? We are under considerable pressure from commercial and public users who expect to pay nothing for access to our fields. We are working with our landlord to open other parks to them, but it is not an easy proposition for either side on this issue because there are too many drones in the hands of idiots who have no regard for safety or privacy. They do not follow the rules and disappear after an incident or plead ignorance if caught.

  11. With the track record of a few groups who have approached our club for permission to fly never going to happen hear. Our land owner will void our lease agreement anyway. We allowed a commercial group 20+ years ago to use our field. They thought they owed the place and even told our club members they could not fly. To me letting these commercial drown groups in is opening Pandora’s Box.

  12. This seems to be getting a little muddy. Someone that has a 107, who practices at our club field, must have their own insurance, but if they just say that they are flying recreationally, then they would not. How could we tell if they were flying recreationally with their AMA membership current and thus covered under the AMA insurance, or if they were flying 107 and would need their own insurance? We currently have two members that I know of with 107 who fly at our field, and this needs to be cleared up.

  13. I don’t understand , our club requires all pilots to be members of the AMA. How can we let commercial pilots fly with out being a member of AMA.

  14. What if a pilot with remote pilot certificate but no commercial entity connection wants to practice? Require AMA? Ask the pilot to get permission from our landlord and have own insurance? Are there restrictions on certificated pilots different from AMA?

    1. A good rule of thumb is to ask “what’s the intent of the flight?” If it’s recreational, which could include practice, the pilot should join AMA. If the intent is business related then the pilot should definitely have commercial insurance and your landowner’s permission.

  15. Why don’t we just get these commercial entities to join the club and the AMA and that solves the whole situation?

  16. My question is, if I am a FAA Certified Part 107 Certified pilot, an AMA CD/Leader member and a member of a local flying club, will there be issues if I just want to fly my drones at local club fields?

  17. Guys, Read the article in full. Readers start losing interest when you waste space asking questions already answered. Just a thought, not trying to be mean.

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