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The 3 things to consider between recreational and commercial drone use.

Updated: Aug 7, 2019

🖐In this blog post we’ll share all links and main difference between recreational and commercial drone use. Give a 👍 at the end of this post if you enjoyed it & feel free to ask any questions or share your experience in The Forum . Keep in mind that the content below is updated to the best of our ability & does not replace official sources & your own research.

Commercial or recreational drone usage?

But before anything, its probably worth to define what each use stands for and how it applies to you... From then, we can look and understand what the difference lie in and how to comply to them in both drone use cases.

What does drone recreational use mean?

Recreational drone use is limited to sport and leisure activities like drone races or private photography. When taking off, you're not flying a profit in mind. For instance: if you fly above your own property to measure a potential renovation work, this could be considered as a commercial flight as you're looking to save on a service for yourself. The use of drones for recreational purposes is allowed in most countries of the world without a license. In every case, you should still obey to your country's legislation around recreational drone use.

💡 Dronemade Tip: Check out 150 countries' drone recreational rules here. Or if you are after looking for your ideal drone, check out the Drone Gear pages.

What does drone commercial use mean?

Commercial drone use is any use of your drone (quadcopter, UAV or otherwise) “in connection with a business.” In general, the term refers to any activity with a drone that provides either a profit through the sale of photos or videos / a provision of any kind of service or a monitoring the progress of a business project. To clarify, this means that commercial drone use applies to any use of a drone from which you hope to profit from. This can include a wide range of activities & services, find some examples here.

💡 Dronemade Tip: If you're a professional, feel free to advertise your activity on this map or find out more info here. There is also a Job Centre in the Forum made just for you.


1/ Drone licensing

Recreational flights

When flying your drone as a hobby or for personal use, you generally would won't need a license. This is however very variable based on the country you want to fly within. For instance, countries like Morocco or North Korea forbid both recreational and commercial use formerly and will confiscated any found material entering their territories at best.

Commercial flights

When flying your drone for a commercial purpose, most countries ask for a license, such as USA, UK and France who all have strict commercial drone regulations in place. This is understandably a little more restricted as professional drone pilots compete directly with manned aircraft pilots who themselves need a license to operate but also because commercial drones are usually much bigger than recreational ones, thus representing a bigger danger in case of failure.


2/ Drone authorisations

Recreational flights

Authorisations are generally not required if you are flying in a government authorised zone and avoiding flying above private property without consent. In every case, you should follow the good practice recommendations and obey to privacy laws of your country. Before any flight in an unknown zone, we recommend you check your country's legislation. When taking photos of public or private property you must consider people's right to privacy and it is always best to ask them or inform them prior you fly above.

Some people can react quite violently..

Commercial flights

In most countries, except a few, you will need a special authorisation or registration to fly and film a public space or private lands. If filming public buildings or monuments, you might need a local authorisation from the council in addition to any other legislation your country operates within.

🚨 In many countries, national parks are independently managed and will have their own privacy policy for commercial flights as they usually like to control their image but also will explain that wildlife might be impacted by drone activity.

🦅 vs drone attack..

3/ Choose your drone

Recreational drones

A lot is happening out there and you now see a new drone model coming out every 3-4 months. We are not best to recommend you a brand or model but here are the things you should look after when choosing your recreational drone:

  • Consider who is it for (your teenager, yourself, your grand father..?) Some first drone can be technical to apprehend and you might wanna start easy or keep it simple.

  • The weight, this is an absolute must if you travel often and want to go though most legislation (many countries evaluate their legislation according to the weight of your drone). Most airlines also accept under 10kg carry-ons, and well, its always best to have this little piece of technology with you.

  • The battery life, best hobby drones offer a 30mins autonomy but you might consider shorter flight times if you expect flying nearby your place where it is easy to recharge. ✅ a car battery charger is always a good idea to purchase aside.

  • The lens quality, here again depending on what you wanna do with your footage, you might consider higher resolution models and/or with an integrated gimbal stabilisation (absolute must if you want a steady video).

  • The solidity, lets face it.. your son might want to use it once or twice and well.. you might wanna consider the solidity of your drone in case of a crash.

🚁 If you are considering getting your first drone or upgrade, feel free to check the Drone Gear content we've put together or click on the model you like below to get its full specs. Any purchase done from one of our affiliate links helps Dronemade stay free and available to all.

Commercial drones

A lot going on here as well but here is here's what you want to look up prior any purchase:

  • Your experience, it goes without saying but you would be surprised how many new commercial droners never handled a recreational one prior.

  • The imagery and footage quality, most important factor at this level, you should go for the top notch of your budget. There are serious models and pilots out there and if you want to be considered as such.. you need to step up your game.

  • The weight, it is most unlikely your drone will fit carry on but nevertheless, lighter is better. It will help you get through some countries' legislation easier in some cases (eg. Canada)

  • Your flight business purposes and the legislation around it: flying for wedding photography will not require the same authorisations as flying for filming national or public events.

  • The memory card: not all memory cards record in the same way, make sure yours is compatible with your drone's maximum recording capacity.

  • Your insurance, as you're setting yourself as a business, your insurance provider might have several criteria to explain you. ✅ Its always a good idea to check upfront as this will become a fix liability for your business.

💡 Dronemade Tip: We've compared several drone insurers here.


We hope this information helped you understand a little more about the key differences between commercial and recreational drone use. If you have a question or some feedback, please feel free to share it in the Forum for all to enjoy and build from it.

Disclaimer: Although great care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information researched, we take no responsibility for any loss, harm or damage caused as a direct or indirect consequence of relying on this information. It is your responsibility to seek advice from qualified local & relevant authorities for needed information about local drone rules and regulations.



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