FAA lets movie and TV groups operate drones in national airspace, what could go wrong?

FAA grants exemptions to six companies in TV and movie industry

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Credit: Reuters

I am all for realism in movies but this might be a little precarious. The Federal Aviation Administration has granted regulatory exemptions to six aerial photo and video production companies, the first step to allowing the film and television industry the use of unmanned aircraft in the National Airspace System.

 The firms asked the agency to grant exemptions from regulations that address general flight rules, pilot certificate requirements, manuals, maintenance and equipment mandates. To receive the exemptions, the firms had to show their UAS operations would not adversely affect safety, or would provide at least an equal level of safety to the rules from which they seek the exemptions.

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 In their applications, the firms said the operators will hold private pilot certificates, keep the UAS within line of sight at all times and restrict flights to the "sterile area" on the set.

 In its request for exemption, media firm SnapRoll wrote: “Given the small size of the Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUASs) involved and the restricted sterile environment within which they will operate, the applicant falls squarely within that zone of safety (an equivalent level of safety) in which Congress envisioned that the FAA must, by exemption, allow commercial operations of UASs to commence immediately.

Also due to the size of the UASs and the restricted areas in which the relevant sUASs will operate, approval of the application presents no national security issue. Given the clear direction in Section 333 of the Reform Act, the authority contained in the Federal Aviation Act, as amended; the strong equivalent level of safety surrounding the proposed operations, and the significant public benefit, including enhanced safety, reduction in environmental impacts, including reduced emissions associated with allowing UASs for movie and television operations, the grant of the requested exemptions is in the public interest. Accordingly, the applicant respectfully requests that the FAA grant the requested exemption without delay.”

In granting the exemption, the FAA said it accepted these safety conditions, adding an inspection of the aircraft before each flight, and prohibiting operations at night. The agency also will issue Certificates of Waiver or Authorization that mandate flight rules and timely reports of any accident or incidents.

According to the FAA, the Motion Picture Association of America facilitated the exemption requests on behalf of these six members: Astraeus Aerial, Aerial MOB, LLC, HeliVideo Productions, LLC, Pictorvision Inc, RC Pro Productions Consulting, LLC dba Vortex Aerial, and Snaproll Media, LLC. The FAA has asked for additional information from Flying-Cam, Inc., a seventh aerial video company that filed for exemptions with this group in June.

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