Cable News Network (“CNN”) announced a partnership with the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) “to advance efforts to integrate Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (“UAVs”) into newsgathering and reporting,” according to CNN’s press release dated January 12, 2015. In CNN’s press release, CNN Senior Vice President David Vigilante stated, “Our aim is to get beyond hobby-grade equipment and to establish what options are available and workable to produce high quality video journalism.”

The partnership takes the form of a cooperative research and development agreement (“CRDA”), which are agreements between a government agency and an outside entity to work together on research and development in a particular area of mutual interest. Each federal agency may enter into CRDAs on behalf of such agency with companies, public and private foundations and nonprofit organizations. See 15 U.S.C.A. § 3710a. Under a CRDA, the FAA may provide engineers, scientists, facilities and equipment, intellectual property or other resources. See Federal Aviation Administration manualCooperative Research and Development Agreement Overview, page 14.

The basis for the partnership between the FAA and CNN is CNN’s ongoing research collaboration with Georgia Institute of Technology (“Georgia Tech”), which started in the summer of 2014. CNN and Georgia Tech entered into the collaboration to “better understand the opportunities [UAVs] present for media organizations, and to explore the access and safety issues that need to be addressed as part of any new regulatory framework.” See Bridget Leininger,CNN, Georgia Tech To Launch First Ever Initiative To Explore Media's UAV Use In U.S. Airspace. The FAA plans on using the information created under the CNN-Georgia Tech collaboration to develop a framework for various types of UAVs to be safely integrated into newsgathering operations.

The partnership with CNN is the latest in a series of moves the FAA has undertaken with regards to UAVs: The FAA recently denied a petition submitted by the Electronic Privacy Information Center to initiate a public rulemaking to address the “threat to privacy and civil liberties that will result from the deployment of aerial drones within the United States.”

The FAA is charged with undertaking rulemaking for UAVs under the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. The FAA’s proposed rules governing UAVs are eagerly anticipated by many interest groups, such as UAV manufacturers and privacy advocates, and are to be released later this year. Although draft rules have been created by the FAA and are under internal review, there is no anticipated date of release for the rules as of the date of this update.

Prior articles written by King & Spalding related to UAVs and privacy issues can be found here and here.