U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx today announced that the Federal Aviation Administration has granted regulatory exemptions to six aerial photo and video production companies, the first step to allowing the film and television industry the use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in the National Airspace System. Secretary Foxx made the announcement on a conference call with FAA Administrator Michael Huerta and Chris Dodd, chairman and chief executive officer of the Motion Picture Association of America, Inc.
Secretary Anthony Foxx also determined that the UAS to be used in the proposed operations do not need an FAA-issued certificate of airworthiness based on a finding they do not pose a threat to national airspace users or national security. Those findings are permitted under Section 333 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012.
“Today’s announcement is a significant milestone in broadening commercial UAS use while ensuring we maintain our world-class safety record in all forms of flight,” said Secretary Foxx. “These companies are blazing a trail that others are already following, offering the promise of new advances in agriculture and utility safety and maintenance.”
The firms asked the agency to grant exemptions from regulations that address general flight rules, pilot certificate requirements, manuals, maintenance and equipment mandates. To receive the exemptions, the firms had to show their UAS operations would not adversely affect safety, or would provide at least an equal level of safety to the rules from which they seek the exemptions.
In their applications, the firms said the operators will hold private pilot certificates, keep the UAS within line of sight at all times and restrict flights to the "sterile area" on the set. In granting the exemption, FAA accepted these safety conditions, adding an inspection of the aircraft before each flight, and prohibiting operations at night. The agency also will issue Certificates of Waiver or Authorization (COAs) that mandate flight rules and timely reports of any accident or incidents.
“The applicants submitted UAS flight manuals with detailed safety procedures that were a key factor in our approval of their requests,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “We are thoroughly satisfied these operations will not pose a hazard to other aircraft or to people and property on the ground.”
The Motion Picture Association of America facilitated the exemption requests on behalf of these six members: Astraeus Aerial, Aerial MOB, LLC, HeliVideo Productions, LLC, Pictorvision Inc, RC Pro Productions Consulting, LLC dba Vortex Aerial, and Snaproll Media, LLC. The FAA has asked for additional information from Flying-Cam, Inc., a seventh aerial video company that filed for exemptions with this group in June. The agency is working closely with the company to obtain the required information.
The FAA encourages other industry associations to work with interested parties to develop safety manuals and standard operating procedures that will help facilitate similar petitions.
As of today, the agency is considering 40 requests for exemptions from other commercial entities.