HIGHLIGHTS:

  • On Sept. 25, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved the limited use of unmanned aerial systems (UAS), commonly referred to as drones, for film production on some movie sets.
  • The FAA's decision to approve the use of UAS is a concrete step by the FAA to integrate commercial and civil UAS into the national airspace.

On Sept. 25, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved the limited use of unmanned aerial systems (UAS), commonly referred to as drones, for film production on some movie sets.

Current FAA regulations prohibit any use of UAS for commercial or business purposes. However, the FAA is authorized to grant exemptions from this general prohibition where UAS may operate safely in the national airspace.

The FAA's announcement that UAS may be used on some movie sets came in response to petitions filed by seven film and video production companies in May 2014. The FAA approved six of the seven exemption petitions, which were made as part of an effort coordinated by the Motion Picture Association of America to use UAS on closed movie sets.

The petitions proposed a cautious approach to the use of UAS, specifically setting forth 18 self-imposed limitations.

For example, the petitioners agreed to the following:

  • The maximum total flight time for each operational flight will be 30 minutes. Flights will be terminated at 25 percent battery power reserve, should that occur prior to the 30-minute limit.
  • Each UAS pilot will be an FAA-licensed airman with at least a private pilot's certificate and third-class medical certificate. The observer will hold at least a third-class medical certificate.
  • The operator will obtain the consent of all persons involved in the filming and ensure that only consenting persons will be allowed within 100 feet of the flight operation. The UAS operator will submit a written Plan of Activities to the relevant Flight Standards District Offices.

In addition to the self-imposed restrictions proposed by the film and video companies, the FAA requirements include the following:

  • The aircraft must be inspected before each flight.
  • The use of UAS is restricted to daytime use only.
  • Reporting requirements have been imposed for any UAS accidents or incidents.

The FAA's decision to approve the use of UAS is a concrete step by the FAA to integrate commercial and civil UAS into the national airspace. The full announcement can be read on the official FAA website.