Today the Federal Aviation Administration granted exemptions to six aerial photo and video production companies, allowing those companies to use unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones to operate over US airspace, and in populated areas.
That’s right, Hollywood is getting drones.
Previously, the use of drones for commercial purposes has been defacto banned by the FAA, making this decision a big one. “Today’s announcement is a significant milestone in broadening commercial UAS use while ensuring we maintain our world-class safety record in all forms of flight,” said Secretary Anthony Foxx in a press release.
But the decision doesn’t mean that anyone with a quadcopter and a camera will be able to start autonomous filming. Only six aerial photo and video production companies were granted the exemptions that had kept US airspace relatively drone-free, even though those companies’ exemptions were lobbied for by the Motion Picture Association of America.
And new regulations come along with the FAA announcement: all operators will need private pilot certificates, operators will have to be able to see their drone at all times, and the drones will only be able to fly over areas of the set that are “sterile” (100 feet away from people). Additionally, the drones won’t be able to fly at night and must be inspected prior to taking off.
These drones will still be fairly robust. The Washington Post reports that “the camera-bearing drones would weigh less than 55 pounds…They would fly no faster than 57 mph and no higher than 400 feet to ensure that they do not interfere with other aircraft.”
As revelatory as allowing commercial drones in US airspace sounds (you can fly your own drone if it stays below 400 feet and 5 miles from an airport), these won’t be the first drones to make a movie. The drone operators on the set of The November Man told Nerdist that their production was likely the first to have a fully-dedicated drone team on set at all times (though they were flying over Serbia).
Making movies adds to the increasingly long list of stuff-drones-do-besides-war, including aiding scientific research, tracking endangered species, making awesome Cirque du Soliel shows, and aiding in natural disaster reconnaissance. So don’t mind the small four-rotored robot above your head, it might be making Avengers: Age of Reboot.