Hollywood Producers Want to Use Drones to Film Their Movies

If the FAA approves, filmmakers could be among the first to use commercial drones.

National Journal
Alex Brown
June 2, 2014, 1:02 p.m.

Hol­ly­wood film­makers may be among the first to get ap­prov­al to use com­mer­cial drones, the Fed­er­al Avi­ation Ad­min­is­tra­tion an­nounced Monday, not­ing that sev­en pro­duc­tion com­pan­ies are re­quest­ing per­mis­sion to film with un­manned air­craft.

The com­pan­ies put in re­quests through the Mo­tion Pic­ture As­so­ci­ation of Amer­ica, seek­ing ex­emp­tions to the FAA’s ban on com­mer­cial drones. The agency is work­ing on more-uni­ver­sal drone reg­u­la­tions, but for now com­mer­cial op­er­a­tions are ap­proved on a case-by-case basis. Only lim­ited flights over the Arc­tic Ocean have been al­lowed so far.

The agency noted “tan­gible eco­nom­ic be­ne­fits” if the film op­er­a­tions are ap­proved, but cau­tioned that safety con­cerns would have to be ad­dressed be­fore Hol­ly­wood drones can take off.

“[Ap­prov­al] is go­ing to be quite likely,” said Patrick Egan, a drone ex­pert who ed­its sUAS News. “If there’s go­ing to be any ex­emp­tion, that’s the one.” Film sets are usu­ally closed en­vir­on­ments, and the in­dustry has no short­age of avi­ation- and aer­i­al-pho­to­graphy ex­perts. Plus, he ad­ded, “the film in­dustry has lots of polit­ic­al clout, which doesn’t hurt.”

One ap­plic­ant, Snapro­ll Me­dia, em­phas­ized it would be us­ing “private or con­trolled ac­cess prop­erty” for its shoots.

“[Drones] of­fer the mo­tion pic­ture and tele­vi­sion in­dustry an in­nov­at­ive and safer op­tion for film­ing,” said the MPAA’s Neil Fried. “We wel­come the FAA’s lead­er­ship and sup­port their guid­ance to safely au­thor­ize the use of [un­manned air­craft sys­tems] for the mo­tion pic­ture and tele­vi­sion in­dustry.”

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