FAA to Consider Hollywood Request for Exemption to Use Drones for Filming

The FAA is also working on a proposed set of rules specifically developed for users of “small” — under 55 pound — aircrafts, which it expects to complete later this year.
Carolyn Giardina

The Federal Aviation Administration has agreed to consider a request by Hollywood production companies for regulatory exemption to allow for the use of unmanned aircraft systems, or drones, for filming.

“Unmanned aircraft systems offer the motion picture and television industry an innovative and safer option for filming,” said Neil Fried, senior vp government and regulatory affairs for the MPAA, which is handling the exemption request for the production companies. “This new tool for storytellers will allow for creative and exciting aerial shots and is the latest in a myriad of new technologies being used by our industry to further enhance the viewer experience. We welcome the FAA’s leadership and support their guidance to safely authorize the use of UASs for the motion picture and television industry.”

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There’s a growing camp in Hollywood that say drones, or UASs, can be a real asset for filmmakers with the promise of new creative options, cost savings and, perhaps, safer sets. But regulatory issues are a major hurdle. Currently, in order to conduct a commercial operation with an unmanned aircraft in U.S. airspace, users need a certified aircraft, licensed pilot and FAA approval, according to FAA spokesperson Les Dorr. “We have been contacted by four different industries, including the film industry, that have expressed interest in possibly applying for an exemption that would let them conduct tightly controlled, low-risk operations,” he told The Hollywood Reporter.

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The FAA is additionally working on a proposed set of rules specifically developed for users of “small”—under 55 pounds—aircrafts, that it expects to complete later this year. While the FAA has not yet determined what these regulations might entail, it could prove influential in production as many digital cameras are getting smaller and lighter as the technology advances. Said Dorr: “We think we have the authority to possibly expand the commercial use of small unmanned aircrafts in very limited, controlled, low-risk circumstances, like movie sets.” 

Last month, TJ Ducklo, MPAA’s deputy director of corporate communications, told The Hollywood Reporter: “[UAS’s] are currently used on overseas productions. ... We are hopeful that we can work with the FAA to implement their safe use in the United States as soon as possible.”

E-mail: Carolyn.Giardina@THR.com
Twitter: @CGinLA