Lights, cameras, drones! FAA approves use of UAVs for film

This week, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has taken a big step forward on drones: It has authorized six filmmaking companies to use unmanned aircraft.

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In an effort that marks a giant milestone for commercial drone use in the United States, the FAA granted each of the six companies waivers from regulations on general flight rules, pilot certification and equipment mandates designed for traditional aircraft as long as they meet certain conditions for safety. The agency is currently working with a seventh company on a similar drone approval and has at least 40 additional waiver requests pending for commercial use of UAVs, The New York Times reports.

While the FAA has previously approved commercial drone use for Alaskan oil operations, FAA’s decision is certainly the first exemption of its kind. Now, the companies will be permitted to fly small drones equipped with cameras on closed sets; though, the FAA did say the aircraft must be inspected before each flight and may only be operated during the day, while any accidents or other related incidents must be reported.

As the Washington Post writes, the civil drone industry has been pressuring the FAA to relax that ban and to develop new regulations designed to safely integrate UAVs into the country’s air traffic system. “While we’re still waiting for those formal rules, the FAA is now saying that making movies with drones, or TV shows, or advertisements, or anything else you might do on a closed production set, is legal — so long as you can prove it’s safe.”

This decision will surely pave a path towards more approvals for drone use throughout agriculture, industrial inspections, real estate, as well as countless other cases — many of which are listed here.

The FAA shared that it is in the process of evaluating requests from nearly 50 companies, including Amazon, who last month teamed up with 3D RoboticsDJI Innovations and Parrot to form a small UAV coalition aspiring to represent commercial uses of drones, establish a code of conduct and educate the public about benefits of the technology.

“There has been a lot of interest around this technology lately, and I have determined that using unmanned aircraft for this purpose does not pose a risk to national airspace users,”  stated Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

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UAVs have been popular choice among Hollywood producers, particularly given their ability to fly and capture otherwise unimaginable shots. Believe it or not, there have already been several box office hits that featured drone footage (taken from locations outside of the U.S.), including Star Trek: Into Darkness, The Hunger Games and The Dark Knight Rises. 

“We shot Fast & Furious 6 over in Moscow, and we’ve been up in Canada,” explained Preston Ryon, Co-Owner of Snaproll Media LLC, one of the recently-approved companies. The other companies who received drone use exemptions included Astraeus Aerial, HeliVideo Productions LLC and RC Pro Productions Consulting LLC.

Chris Dodd, Chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America, proclaimed that the FAA’s exemption mark “an important day for the [film] industry that will create a climate where more production is done at home.”

It’s safe to say that Hollywood’s exemption is merely the beginning. As these drones — many of which are powered by Atmel AVR microcontrollers — continue to become more affordable, accessible and easier to use, we can expect a future that’ll be both autonomous and airborne. With more than 15,000+ DIY drones ready to take flight,

 

 

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