UPDATE: This afternoon the FAA announced it has granted regulatory exemptions to six of the seven aerial film production companies that applied for permits after finding they don’t threaten national airspace security. (It requires more information from the seventh company.)
“Today’s announcement is a significant milestone in broadening commercial UAS [unmanned aircraft systems] use while ensuring we maintain our world-class safety record in all forms of flight,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Secretary Anthony Foxx on a conference call with an FAA administrator and MPAA CEO Chris Dodd.
The press release also notes that the FAA is currently “considering 40 requests for exemptions from other commercial entities.”
The Federal Aviation Administration is expected to start allowing the movie and TV business to use drones in filming, the Associated Press reports. Currently, commercial use of drones is de facto banned in nearly every industry; the FAA has only granted permits to a single oil company. (The FAA is crafting Congress-mandated regulatory policies to clarify the many gray areas; companies like Amazon, which wants to start piloting its drone delivery system, must apply for permits ad hoc.)
Production companies are eager for approval to begin using the groundbreaking technology in filming—the Motion Picture Association of America has been involved in helping seven companies in question acquire the highly sought after, stringently granted FAA permits.
Reactions to the news are divided.
“The floodgates will open and we’ll see all kinds of other entities looking to use these things,” said Lisa Ellman, an attorney who worked with the Justice Dept. to develop drone policy, according to the AP.
Aerial MOB partner Tony Carmean predicts that the widespread use of drones in film production “will fundamentally change moviemaking,” AP reports, allowing directors “to get shots they could never get before and making films more dynamic.”
Not all the experts are so thrilled, however. Some believe the limitations on the permits will be too restrictive. These include requirements that the drones only be operated on closed sets by three people, including at least one trained drone operator, AP reports. “I’m worried that it’s too small a step forward and it’s too narrowly limited,” said Brendan Schulman, an attorney representing parties lobbying for drone use.
Thursday’s news could, however, be an indication that the FAA is open to permitting commercial operations like the entertainment industry permission to utilize drones, and will likely consider doing the same for other industries.