Media giant CNN has received a first-of-its-kind Part 107 waiver from the FAA to fly small drones over people. According to a CNN statement, the approval represents an industry milestone because the company’s latest waiver will enable real-world UAS operations over people for the first time.
CNN Granted Waiver to Use Vantage Robotics UAS Over People
It’s certainly a step forward for the industry, particularly as safety and privacy continue to restrict flights over groups of people for other commercial uses. CNN’s waiver allows the network to fly the Vantage Robotics Snap drone in a range of environments. Most notably, these include operations over crowds of people, up to an altitude of 150 feet AGL.
“This waiver signifies a critical step forward not only for CNN’s UAS operations, but also the commercial UAS industry at large,” said David Vigilante, SVP of Legal for CNN. “We are truly grateful to the FAA for allowing CNN to demonstrate its continued commitment to safe UAS operations.”
The FAA waiver authorizes CNN to operate the Snap UAS, a frangible, 1.37-pound aircraft with enclosed rotors that is made of deformable material, over people. “Vantage created the Snap for the purpose of safely capturing aerial video over people,” said Tobin Fisher, CEO of Vantage Robotics. “We are pleased that Vantage was able to work with CNN to present and establish the safety case for the Snap to the FAA.”
A Long Road for CNN
CNN’s successful waiver application is the product of over two years of research and testing on the part of CNN and Vantage Robotics. Back in July, CNN received a waiver for flights on closed sets for TV shows and motion pictures. In 2015, CNN was selected by the FAA as one of the first three industry “Pathfinders” to develop safe uses of UAS in newsgathering, particularly in urban populated areas. In 2016, CNN received the first-ever waiver granted by the FAA to fly a small UAS over people, for a small tethered vehicle.
CNN’s waiver application was based on the “Reasonableness Approach,” a precedent-setting set of criteria which CNN conveniently helped to esign and propose to the FAA.
Under it, an applicant’s ability to operate a UAS safely over people is determined based on “the totality of circumstances,” including the operator’s safe history of operations, the safety features of the aircraft, and test data demonstrating that the UAS is safe to operate over people.
“We are delighted that the FAA has granted CNN a waiver that has a meaningful and practical application to our newsgathering operations,” said Greg Agvent, Senior Director of National Newsgathering Technology and CNN AIR. “We believe that this waiver is scalable and usable across industries, and therefore represents significant progress for the commercial UAS industry as a whole.”
CNN was represented by Lisa Ellman and Matt Clark of Hogan Lovells in the waiver application process. “We are pleased to have worked with CNN and the FAA in achieving this important step forward for the FAA and the UAS industry,” said Lisa Ellman, Chair of Hogan Lovells’ Global UAS Practice and Co-Executive Director of Commercial Drone Alliance.
“We look forward to building on this progress through continued collaboration with the FAA and industry partners.”