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FAA green lights commercial drone use for movie and TV companies

As expected, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Thursday granted permission for a number of movie and TV production companies to use drones in their work.

As things currently stand, the commercial use of drones is severely restricted by the FAA, with Thursday’s ruling the first clear indication that the authority is at long last moving toward a more relaxed policy regarding the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) by businesses.

Safety OK

Persuaded by the safety reassurances provided by the applicants, regulatory exemptions were granted by the FAA to six production companies, marking the first time that permission has been given to the film and TV industry for the use of UAVs in American airspace.

The companies include, for example, Flying-Cam, which used drones to shoot several sequences for the recent Bond movie, Skyfall.

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The freedom to use drones in filming could help to reduce the cost of production budgets, as shots that before would’ve involved the use of helicopters or planes can now be captured using UAVs.

Limitations

However, the green-lighted companies don’t have complete freedom when it comes to operating their flying machines. In an effort to gain permission from the FAA, the application, submitted on behalf of the companies by the Motion Picture Association of America, promised drones would weigh no more than 55 pounds (25 kilograms) and fly only on closed sets.

In addition, the UAVs will go no higher than 400 feet (123 meters) and no faster than 57 mph (92 km/h).

Related: Website shows off best drone videos from around the world

With an increasing number of industries keen to use the relatively new flying technology for their own purposes, Congress has told the FAA to come up with a comprehensive set of UAV rules by September next year.

Until now, the only place in the US where commercial drone flights are taking place is in Alaska, where oil firms have been using the technology to carry out aerial inspections of equipment.

US transportation secretary Anthony Foxx called Thursday’s decision “a significant milestone in broadening commercial unmanned aircraft systems use while ensuring we maintain our world-class safety record in all forms of flight.” Foxx added, “These companies are blazing a trail that others are already following, offering the promise of new advances in agriculture and utility safety and maintenance.”