Hollywood Asks for Drone Exemptions

WASHINGTON—The Motion Picture Association of America is leading a campaign to ask the Federal Aviation Administration to exempt the agency’s ban on commercial drone use, effectively allowing the television and film industry to use unmanned aircraft systems legally for the first time.

While a number of Hollywood filmmakers have used drones for aerial cinematography in the past, this is the first time the industry has formally petitioned the FAA for an exemption. The petitions were filed by seven independent cinematography professionals and the MPAA is facilitating the exemption requests on their behalf. Commercial use of drones is illegal in the United States and the FAA has until 2015 to develop rules to allow use of UAS. In the past, the FAA has granted exemptions to certain entities, including law enforcement, firefighting and search and rescue.

The cinematography firms are asking the agency to grant exemptions from regulations that address general flight rules, pilot certificate requirements, manuals, maintenance and equipment mandates. They are also asking for relief from certain airworthiness certification requirements to allow them to fly drones safely in narrowly-defined, controlled, low-risk situations. To receive the exemptions, the firms must show that their UAS operations will not adversely affect safety, or provide at least an equal level of safety to the rules from which they seek the exemption. They would also need to show why granting the exemption would be in the public interest.

“Unmanned aircraft systems offer the motion picture and television industry an innovative and safer option for filming, said Neil Fried, Senior Vice President, Government and Regulatory Affairs for the Motion Picture Association of America, Inc. “This new tool for storytellers will allow for creative and exciting aerial shots, and is the latest in a myriad of new technologies being used by our industry to further enhance the viewer experience. We welcome the FAA’s leadership and support their guidance to safely authorize the use of UASs for the motion picture and television industry.”

Tom Butts

Tom has covered the broadcast technology market for the past 25 years, including three years handling member communications for the National Association of Broadcasters followed by a year as editor of Video Technology News and DTV Business executive newsletters for Phillips Publishing. In 1999 he launched digitalbroadcasting.com for internet B2B portal Verticalnet. He is also a charter member of the CTA's Academy of Digital TV Pioneers. Since 2001, he has been editor-in-chief of TV Tech (www.tvtech.com), the leading source of news and information on broadcast and related media technology and is a frequent contributor and moderator to the brand’s Tech Leadership events.