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Today, the Federal Aviation Administration announced it will allow the use the of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) on some U.S. film sets.

More specifically, the FAA says it “has granted regulatory exemptions to six aerial photo and video production companies. According the the FAA, this is “the first step to allowing the film and television industry the use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in the National Airspace System.”

A prior FAA ruling banned the commercial use of drones, though the agency has been increasingly considering exceptions because a number of companies (like Amazon) are interested in operating drones commercially.

The Motion Picture Association of America has been lobbying for exemptions to the ban, so production companies can use drones for filming aerial shots rather than using helicopters and airplanes. U.S. production companies already use camera-mounted drones, but only on sets in countries where laws are more drone-tolerant.

The exemption doesn’t mean the film industry won’t have to mitigate the risks involved in using drones, says Jesse Kallman, Head of Business Development and Regulatory Affairs at drone platform company Airware. “Now that the MPAA and its associated operators have been exempted from certain rules, they must apply for operational approval to operate in specific areas with given aircraft and operators,” he says in a blog post. This could manifest as additional rules; film production crews may only be allowed to have drones on closed sets, for example.

Many see the FAA granting an exemption to the film industry as an early indication that the agency will open up drone use more broadly.


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