Commercial drone use is defined by the FAA as anything other than hobby flying, this includes photos / videos for marketing, promotion, or other use, even if there is no charge for the service. Commercial drone use must be approved by the FAA and drone pilots must be licensed by the FAA, and insured. Minnesota operators must be licensed as a commercial operator by Minnesota Dept of Transportation / Office of Aeronautics. There are a number of controlled airspaces in the Minneapolis Metro. FAA 107 licensed drone pilots must have FAA paperwork authorizing them to fly in controlled airspace, at any altitude.
You may either operate under the Part 107 rule, or you may be eligible to conduct public aircraft operations for which you would need to apply for a public Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) for certain operations.
Media companies may use a UAS, but must adhere to the requirements of their Section 333 grant of exemption or the Small UAS Rule (Part 107). Organizations may request a waiver under Part 107 to fly over people, and will need to provide sufficient mitigations to ensure public safety.
The short answer is, YES.
Federal law prohibits anyone from flying drones for compensation unless they hold a valid FAA Remote Pilot license. If your photographer is providing "aerial" images for you and a drone is being used, make sure he or she is licensed. If the pilot has a drone license, you'll see a document indicating that they hold a current FAA issued UAS license. Fines for the unlicensed pilot and the person hiring the pilot can be quite substantial. The fine is $1,100 per occurrence/flight where imagery is used commercially. More importantly perhaps, the fine for a real estate agent who contracts an unlicensed pilot is $11,000. Of course, if you’re an agent who bought a drone and took the photos or video yourself, you will be liable for both fines. If you're photographer's name doesn't show up in the database, you may want to question your photographer about his or her FAA remote pilot's license.
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