FAA approves six film companies to use commercial drones on set

The approvals are some of the first exemptions given to the FAA’s ban on commercial unmanned aircraft

Wow, how did the director get that sweet establishing shot of the whole battlefield? The definition of “movie magic” is expanding, and now six filmmaking companies have a new, lawful tool in their kit: drones.

On Sept 25, the Federal Aviation Association (FAA) approved six companies to use unmanned aircraft in film work. The six companies — Aerial MOB LLC, Astraeus Aerial, HeliVideo Productions LLC, Pictorvision Inc., RC Pro Productions Consulting LLC, and Snaproll Media LLC — are among the first American companies to receive official FAA exemptions from rules banning commercial use of unmanned aircraft.

These exemptions, the FAA says, are a safe, temporary way for companies to use drones in a limited fashion. The FAA had previously only approved two commercial drone operations, both for Alaskan oil companies. The FAA told the Wall Street Journal(WSJ) that 48 other companies, including Amazon, have applied for these drone exemptions.



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“We are open to receiving petitions from anyone,” said FAA chief Michael Huerta in a teleconference with reporters.

He also added that these six companies received exemptions after agreeing to a specific set of safety restrictions that would not compromise public safety. These conditions include the use of a certified private pilot to man the drone, inspections that before each flight, and that the drone must be kept within the pilot’s sight.

The use of drones in filmmaking was widespread in the United States before the FAA’s commercial ban went into place in 2011. One company, Flying-Cam Inc., even told the WSJ that it had been using drones since 1994. In order to accommodate U.S. laws while still using drones in filmmaking, many companies have been forced to shoot outside U.S. borders.

“We shot 'Fast & Furious 6' over in Moscow, and we've been up in Canada,” said Snaproll Media co-owner Preston Ryon to the WSJ. “But quite honestly we're excited to be back in the U.S. and working.”

Assistant Editor

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Zach Warren

Zach Warren is Assistant Editor of InsideCounsel magazine, where he oversees online content submissions and administers InsideCounsel's enewsletters. Zach specializes in new media and multimedia...

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