CNN Aerial Imagery and Reporting (CNN AIR), the media giant’s drone division, is the first organization to get a Part 107 waiver for flight over people for “closed-set motion picture and television filming.”
CNN was required to demonstrate safety to the FAA before receiving the waiver, which “allows CNN AIR to operate a diverse range of UAS over uncovered people who are participating in filming operations,” says a press release. CNN had previously been granted a Section 333 exemption for the same function.
The waiver is good news for the entire industry, indicating that the FAA is moving forward on promises to regularize flight over people. The FAA sent a proposal of a new rule for flight over people to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget last year, and has indicated that it will prioritize that issue – along with BVLOS (beyond visual line of sight) flight – for new regulations. CNN AIR’s proven use of drones on closed sets should smooth the way significantly for future waivers or new rules.
Industry expert Lisa Ellman, Chair of Hogan Lovells UAS Practice and Co-Executive Director of the Commercial Drone Alliance, says the waiver shows progress. “This is an exciting development for CNN AIR, and for the commercial drone community more broadly,” says Ellman. “It builds on the industry’s successful safety record operating drones on film sets under Section 333 exemptions, which are being phased out and no longer available in this context. Many of the safety and efficiency benefits of drones for media and filmmaking require operations over participants in a controlled environment.”
“We are grateful for the FAA’s efforts to continue to move commercial drone policy forward under Part 107.”
CNN has a long history of working with the FAA to move regulations forward. The company partnered with the FAA in 2015 as part of the “Pathfinders” program, to develop and test uses for drones in news, particularly in urban areas.