U.S. FAA to allow six movie, TV companies to use drones

Thu Sep 25, 2014 6:53pm EDT
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By Eric Beech and Alwyn Scott

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. aviation regulators loosened restrictions on the commercial use of drones on Thursday, granting six television and movie production companies permission to use the small, remotely piloted aircraft to shoot scenes on closed sets.

The Federal Aviation Administration said it would allow filming with drones provided the aircraft weigh 55 pounds (25 kg) or less, are used within sight of the remote pilot, who must hold a private pilot's license, and are flown under 400 feet (120 meters) in altitude, among other restrictions.

The approval marks a major advance for the growing drone industry, which is expected to generate billions of dollars in economic activity once restrictions on commercial use of drones are removed. The FAA currently bans most commercial drone flights, but is required by Congress to integrate drones into the U.S. airspace in coming years.

"This is the first step to allowing the film and television industry to use unmanned aircraft systems in our nation's airspace, and it's a milestone in the wider effort to allow unmanned aircraft for many different types of commercial use," Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a conference call.

The six companies that received FAA exemptions from the drone ban are Astraeus Aerial, Aerial MOB LLC, HeliVideo Productions LLC, Pictorvision Inc, RC Pro Productions Consulting LLC dba Vortex Aerial, and Snaproll Media, LLC.

The FAA said it has asked for additional information from Flying-Cam Inc, a seventh aerial video company that filed for exemptions with this group in June. The agency said it is working closely with the company to obtain the information.

In granting the exemptions, the FAA barred the six companies from making drone flights at night, required that flights take place on sets closed to the public, and said operators must inspect the aircraft before each flight.

The film and television industry hailed the FAA decision.   Continued...