Section 333 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 outlines provisions for incremental unmanned aerial systems (UAS) integration for limited, low risk uses in advance of the small UAS rule. On Tuesday, the Hollywood Reporter said several marquee film production companies have officially petitioned the FAA to exercise these provisions and expedite government sanctioned rules for the use of drones on movie sets.
The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has been selected to represent the studios in the coming proceedings and submitted the request on their behalf.
“Unmanned aircraft systems offer the motion picture and television industry an innovative and safer option for filming,” said Neil Fried, Senior VP of Government and Regulatory Affairs for the MPAA. “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.”
In addition to the creative advantages drones provide to filmmakers, the technology is also much cheaper and safer than the conventional method of obtaining aerial shots: helicopters.
This is great news for the UAS community. There has been much discussion in the last month about a fast track for drone regulation in certain industries but the MPAA’s request is the first real evidence that progress can be made. In addition to film making, the precision agriculture, powerline and pipeline inspections and oil and gas flare stack inspection industries have also been named as possible recipients of accelerated UAS rules.
Should the FAA grant the request, Hollywood drones could provide crucial data regarding what does and doesn’t work in UAS regulations to the FAA in the early stages of the agency’s drafting of the Notice for Proposed Rulemaking for UAS, due by the end of next year.
But there are still plenty of questions that need to be answered.
FAA spokesperson Les Dorr told the Hollywood Reporter, “We think we have the authority to possibly expand the commercial use of small unmanned aircrafts in very limited, controlled, low-risk circumstances, like movie sets.”
You think you have the authority? But you aren’t sure? It seems like that is something that should be cleared up…
On top of this, giving Hollywood an exemption from the FAA’s “commercial drones are illegal” stance opens up a new can of worms: Will drone pilots become just another part of film crews, like camera operators and get grandfathered into IATSE (the labor union for production crews) or will the studios contract the work out to private aerial production companies? Will the person behind the flight controls be required to have a license? If so, what’s to stop a movie studio from contracting the work out to an unlicensed, cheap, but no-less-capable aerial production company like they do now?
The list goes on.
But all in all, this is good news. There is a lot of potential for progress if the expedited ruling becomes a reality. Plus, Jerry Bruckheimer could put his movie where his mouth is and cast actual drones as the villains in the upcoming production of Top Gun 2.
Alan is serial entrepreneur, active angel investor, and a drone enthusiast. He co-founded DRONELIFE.com to address the emerging commercial market for drones and drone technology. Prior to DRONELIFE.com, Alan co-founded Where.com, ThinkingScreen Media, and Nurse.com. Recently, Alan has co-founded Crowditz.com, a leader in Equity Crowdfunding Data, Analytics, and Insights. Alan can be reached at alan(at)dronelife.com