FAA’s New Drone Rules Go Into Effect; CNN Has Waiver to Fly Over Your Head

“The ability to fly over people is a huge step forward, and a necessary one as we cover the news where it happens,” said CNN's David Vigilante.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The Federal Aviation Administration on Monday put its new rules for small unmanned aircrafts — or drones — into effect, and a waiver granted to CNN could usher in the promise of drones in newsgathering.

The rules — which have been applauded by the Hollywood community — apply to drones weighing less than 55 pounds for non-hobbyist use, including film production. In effect, under a waiver system, Hollywood production companies had already been operating under these rules on productions such as The Mentalist and Avengers: Age of Ultron.

One aspect of the new rules states that an aircraft may not operate over any persons not directly participating in the operation, but that is poised to change.

CNN reported Monday that it has become the first organization to be granted a waiver to fly a drone over people in the U.S. — specifically a Fotokite Pro, a tethered drone that weighs less than two pounds.

“The ability to fly over people is a huge step forward, and a necessary one as we cover the news where it happens,” David Vigilante, CNN's senior vp legal, said in a statement.

Added Lisa Ellman, co-chair of Hogal Lovells’ unmanned aerial systems (UAS) practice and co-director of the Commercial Drone Alliance, in a statement: “Not only is this a milestone moment for CNN, this approval is a milestone for the commercial UAS industry as a whole. Many of the most promising UAS uses require safe operation near and over people that might not be involved with the flight.”

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