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Q&A: Ron Futrell on ArrowData’s ENG Drone Waiver

LAS VEGAS—ArrowData scored an Federal Aviation Administration waiver to do electronic newsgathering with a drone, the first waiver of its type and one that comes with several conditions, including operation of a specific model of drone by a licensed pilot. (See “Drone ENG Approved for Las Vegas.”) TV Technologyqueried Ron Futrell of ArrowData about the company’s pilot and its intended deployments.

TVT:I understand the waiver to call for a licensed pilot. Is ArrowData President Michael Bradshaw the pilot?
Ron Futrell: No, our pilot is a former B-29 and F-16 pilot who also flew for the U.S. Air Force in the unmanned Predator program. Mario Wilson.

TVT:What Las Vegas stations are you flying for?
Ron Futrell: That has still not been determined

TVT:Have you already shot news footage? If so, what was it and who was it for?
Ron Futrell: We have shot our own video, but not as “news” footage. We have done a lot of indoor training of both the aircraft and the camera operator.

TVT:Do you expect to fly in situations where a helicopter would be difficult or impractical? Any examples?
Ron Futrell: Yes, absolutely we will. Examples would be at places where the live truck is on the scene, but access to the video is difficult. Also, aerials will enhance the ground video. We have live transmission gear on the aircraft, along with an actionable (not static) camera that is operated by a second person. This gives us what the media want.

TVT:What is your fee or hourly charge?
Ron Futrell: Still not determined.

TVT:What drones do you be fly besides theCineStar 8 Okto XL? Is that the only one authorized under the waiver?
Ron Futrell: Yes, that is the only one authorized. We could apply to use another aircraft—and that is just a simple revision of our 333 Exemption.

TVT:Will you provide a live link to the station If so, what RF equipment will you be using?
Ron Futrell: Yes, Live link. Currently we have a Tomahawk transmitter on the aircraft.

TVT: One final question. The waiver said closed-set operations are not permitted, then it seems to contradict itself and say that they are permitted with an motion picture and television operations manual. What's an MPTOM and do you have one?
Ron Futrell: No we do not have one and did not apply for one. We are fine with not being on a closed set, in fact—we prefer not to be.