On Monday, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an announcement indicating it is considering allowing a handful of filmmakers the ability to use non-military drones in film production legally. This came after seven members of the Motion Picture Association of America petitioned for the right to do so. As a search of YouTube will show, thousands of hobbyists already use drones in ways (from photography to crop dusting) that suggest a future air force of drone-related businesses. However, currently drones are not approved for commercial use in the way “manned” fixed and rotary wing aircraft have been for decades.
Last December, the FAA announced the selection of six sites around the country where commercial use of drones are now being tested. But currently, the FAA does not allow the use of drones for commercial purposes, as they’re considered a potential hazard to other aircraft, a concern that was validated by a near midair collision between a US Airways flight and a drone over Tallahassee in May. (Concerns related to privacy, security and other issues must also be addressed by the FAA and other agencies.)
The FAA is under a considerable amount of pressure from businesses and Congress to overturn the ban of commercial drone use by 2015, especially after Amazon released its Amazon Prime Air teaser in December. “Companies from three industries besides film production have approached the FAA and are also considering filing exemption requests,” the FAA stated. “These industries include precision agriculture, power line and pipeline inspection, and oil and gas flare stack inspection.”
The FAA statement is a strong reminder that drone technology will have a greater effect upon small businesses than purely in the science-fiction realm. Aside from photographic and cinematographic capabilities, a concept video by MIT students suggests that drones can be used in many ways–even in a funny video-conferencing way–that suggest practical adaptations in the future.
Whatever happens, it appears Hollywood filmmakers (even if they are in such non-Hollywood places as Franklin, Tenn.) will have first dibs on the commercial use of drones.
If you’re wondering what a filmmaker might do with a drone, here is an example that was created outside the jurisdiction of the FAA:
(Featured photo: Don McCullough via Flickr)