Hollywood Applauds L.A. Crackdown on Civilian Drone Use

"The ordinances are necessary. [Drone use] is like throwing a Cuisinart in the air and hoping for the best," says ICG president Steven Poster.
Courtesy of RexUSA

Hollywood is applauding a new ordinance passed Oct. 14 by the Los Angeles City Council that sets limits on flying drones. The new rules sync up with similar Federal Aviation Administration regulations governing the use of civilian drones. They prohibit flying an unmanned aircraft within five miles of an airport without permission, flying it 400 feet above the ground or within 25 feet of another person or flying beyond its operator's visual line of site. Violators can be charged with a misdemeanor.

Aerial production companies and cinematographers, who have already been operating under the FAA guidelines, say the new ordinance was needed for both business and safety reasons.

"The ordinances are necessary," said International Cinematographers Guild president Steven Poster. "These are dangerous tools. It’s like throwing a Cuisinart in the air and hoping for the best. The answer is, use sanctioned professionals to do this job."

"It’s a step in the right direction," agreed Richard Crudo, president of the American Society of Cinematographers. "It's the Wild West out there, and these are not toys. They are meant to be used by professionals."

ICG business representative Michael Chambliss reported that this ordinance "should have no effect on filmmakers who are going by the rules."

Roughly a year ago, the FAA started to grant exemptions to allow certain aerial production companies to use drones for film and TV production in U.S. airspace, after meeting FAA regulatory rules.

Among them is PictorVision, whose president Tom Hallman said of the new ordinance: "This gives the L.A. police the authority to enforce the same FAA rules that we have already been following for over a year. Until this, there wasn't much the police could do other than ask a drone operator to stop, or maybe change them with public endangerment if they were doing something really stupid."

"I'm personally glad to see that there will be some sort of enforcement of the existing rules," Hallman continued. "It gets really frustrating when we follow all the FAA rules to the letter, and then next to us, and sometimes competing with us, is someone who doesn’t feel the need to follow the same rules, and there are no consequences. Rules without enforcement and consequences have little value."

Tony Carmean, co-founder of Aerial MOB, another company with the FAA exemption, agreed. "There's still a significant amount of unauthorized, illegal operators out [there] that steal business from us. Hopefully, this will make them think twice," he said.

According to Consumer Electronics Association projections, the U.S. market for drones will approach $105 million in revenue in 2015, with unit sales expected to approach 700,000, an increase of 63 percent. It also forecasts that the U.S. will reach one million drone flights per day within the next 20 years.