(Source: Washington Post)
The Federal Aviation Administration proclaimed a new era in aviation in September when it granted permission to six Hollywood filmmakers to fly drones on movie sets, a decision that opened the door to commercial drone flights in the United States.
“These companies are blazing a trail,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said at the time. “We are thoroughly satisfied these operations will not pose a hazard to other aircraft or to people and property on the ground,” added Michael Huerta, the chief of the FAA.
What the FAA did not reveal, however, was that senior officials had overruled objections from some of its safety inspectors, who had warned after a formal review that the filmmakers’ plans were too risky and should be prohibited, according to documents and e-mails obtained by The Washington Post.
The warning turned out to be prescient. On Wednesday, a camera-toting drone operated by one of the filmmakers, Pictorvision, flew off a set in California and disappeared, according to an FAA report. Tom Hallman, the president of Pictorvision, said crew members found the 20-pound drone the next day in “rugged terrain” on a private ranch about 100 yards from where they had been filming near Santa Clarita. He said no one was injured.
Since giving the go-ahead to Hollywood cinematographers three months ago, the FAA has been swamped with requests to fly drones from other companies. As of Friday, 167 applications from an array of industries were pending, and the government is bracing for hundreds more next year.
Several FAA employees, speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation or losing their jobs, said supervisors are pressuring analysts to rubber-stamp the applications without a rigorous safety review.
“There’s huge political pressure to do quick approvals,” said one former FAA flight safety official. “Congress made very clear what they want, and safety is not at the forefront because of pressure from the industry.”
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