Film industry petitions to use drones, FAA says it will consider waivers

A Snaproll Media unmanned helicopter, chasing a Porsche 911 as part of a promotional video.

A Snaproll Media unmanned helicopter, chasing a Porsche 911 as part of a promotional video.

Today the Federal Aviation Administration announced that it was considering allowing the commercial film industry to operate small unmanned aircraft, after receiving petitions from seven aerial video and photography companies.

In its press release, the FAA acknowledged that granting the film industry permission to fly drones would have "tangible economic benefits."

"However, all the associated safety issues must be carefully considered to make sure any hazards are appropriately mitigated," the FAA said in its release.

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) helped write the exemption requests.

One of the seven firms who petitioned for the right to fly is Snaproll Media, which says that it operates unmanned rotorcraft that weigh less than 55 pounds, which are flown slower than 50 knots (about 58 mph).

These petitions may provide insight as to what small UAS rules could look like, when they are eventually proposed by the FAA. In its petition, Snaproll says it will not fly higher than 400 feet above ground level, and that only "consenting persons" will be allowed within 100 feet of the flying aircraft.

Additionally, it says there will be at least three people helping drone operations at all time: the drone's pilot, a camera operator, and a visual observer. The pilot in command will have a private pilot's certificate and third-class medical certificate. The observer also will have at least a third-class medical certificate.

Interestingly, Snaproll will obtain written permission from property holders, and will seek permits from territorial, state, county or city jurisdictions where it flies. This indicates that the regulatory future of small unmanned aircraft may not only lie with FAA's rulemaking, opening the door for legal complications at the local and state levels.

Below is the full text of Snaproll Media's petition to conduct commercial UAS operations.