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What Licenses Does A Drone Photography Business Need?

What Licenses Does A Drone Photography Business Need?

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What Licenses Does A Drone Photography Business Need?

Starting a successful drone photography business takes more than knowing how to take an excellent aerial photo. Starting a new business requires completing several steps, and obtaining licensing is an important one as it may impact your ability to operate legally.

The question, “what business license do I need to start my drone photography business” is a common one but is challenging to answer as every location has different requirements. Licensing for a drone photography business requires a considerable amount of additional licenses that take other types of photographs.

Let’s look at which licenses to consider when starting a drone photography business.

Related: Guide to starting a drone photography business

While we have researched what licenses and permits your business may need, please be aware that there is no way for us to have uncovered every state and local requirement.

To not miss any important licenses and permits, we recommend also checking with your local Chamber of Commerce, economic development agency, or use a business license service like Incfile or LegalZoom.

What Licenses Do You Need to Start a Drone Photography Business?

Federal Licensing

to fly a small drone (under 55 pounds) for commercial purposes, commercial drone operators are required by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to obtain a Remote Pilot Certificate under the Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Rule or Part 107.

To get this license, you will have to pass a written test called the Aeronautical Knowledge Test (or Part 107 test).

Additionally, your drone registration number must also be displayed on the exterior of your aircraft.

State Licensing

In addition to the FAA guidelines, there are additional state laws to be aware of before starting a business providing aerial photography services.

For example, in the state of Florida, the Florida Department of Transportation prohibits the use of a drone to capture an image of a privately owned property without consent if a reasonable expectation of privacy exists.

Piloting drones In Texas is typically prohibited when flying over live sports venues.

The Arizona Department of Transportation won’t allow drones within 500 feet horizontally or 250 feet vertically of any critical facility, which can include water treatment plants, courthouses, and hospitals.

Each state has different requirements, so it’s important to research the laws in your state before taking to the air.

Local Licensing

In addition to state licensing, many towns and cities also have laws regarding the usage of drones.

In the Village of Schaumburg, city ordinance prohibits the use of drones within 100 feet of the perimeter of any village property or on any village right-of-way during a special event.

New York City law has made flying drones illegal within city limits.

The Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation prohibits flying drones in city parks.

In addition to drone-specific licensing to become a professional drone photographer, there are also several general business licensing requirements to consider.  While licensing requirements vary by location, here are a few common business licenses and permits your businesses may also need:

One of the first registrations to do when starting a business is selecting a legal entity (also referred to as a business structure). A legal entity refers to how a business is organized to operate. The four main types include the sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, and Limited Liability Company (LLC).

Related: What is the difference between a sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, or LLC?

Business Name Registration

While not necessarily a business license, it’s worth noting that to use a name for a business, many states require the registration of that name. Making matters more complicated, the process of name registration is different by state and the type of business entity.

For instance, sole proprietorships and partnerships generally need to register a business name (also referred to as a Doing Business As, DBA, fictitious name, or assumed name).

Learn: How to register a DBA

Corporations and LLCs register the business name when the entity is formed with the state.

General Business License or Permit

Depending on where the business is located, a general business license or permit may be required. A few states require a business license; however, they are more commonly found at the city level.

Learn more: Business license requirements by state

Federal Employer Identification Number

The Federal Employer Identification Number (also referred to as a FEIN, Employer Identification Number, EIN, or Federal Tax ID Number) is a unique nine-digit number that identifies a business with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Any business with employees or those that form as a partnership, corporation, and in many cases an LLC, the business will need to get an EIN.

Sole proprietors and single-owner LLCs without employees can instead use the owner’s social security number.

The FEIN or owner’s social security number is used to open a business bank account, apply for a business credit card, and to hire employees.

Learn: How to get an EIN 

Sales Tax Permit or Business Number

Sales tax Service

One registration that can be confusing for a drone photography business is whether a sales tax permit (also referred to as a business tax number or tax ID number) is necessary. To sell services in some states, which most of what a drone photography business provides is a service, a state sales tax permit may be needed.

More commonly, a sales tax permit will be needed for a drone photography business that delivers a physical product like printed photos to the customer.

This permit creates an account number with the state’s Department of Revenue (or similarly named state taxing agency) to collect and remit sales tax.

Learn: State-by-state information on sales tax permits



While researching licenses and permits isn’t the most exciting part of starting a business, obtaining all the licenses and permits necessary to start a drone photography business is critical. In addition to your research, be sure to take talk with city officials and other business owners to be sure the correct licenses have been obtained.


These are some of the most common business licenses, but there may be specific licensing that isn't listed. Before starting your business, be sure to check with the City Clerk, County Clerk, Chamber of Commerce, and/or Economic Developer in your area to get more information regarding business licensing.

For some additional peace of mind, companies like Incfile or Legalzoom can do the research and ensure you have all of the proper federal, state, and local licenses to start your business.

What Licenses Does A Drone Photography Business Need?

What Licenses Does A Drone Photography Business Need?

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