Hollywood has waited patiently for the Federal Aviation Administration to grant exemptions for the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for film and video productions. The wait is over. After several years of wrangling, the FAA made it official, allowing six firms to go ahead and fly drones - the first time private companies legally can do so in the U.S. With Hollywood leading the way, the decision has huge implications for a broad range of industries.
Hollywood's exemption is the first granted to multiple companies and the first to open an entire industry for commercial drone use. This being Hollywood, expect plenty of publicity and statements from industry insiders. Neil Fried, MPAA senior vice president, is already on record in support of drones, saying that drones are "an innovative and safer option for filming. The new tool for storytellers will allow for creative and exciting aerial shots, and it's the latest in a myriad of new technologies being used by our industry to further enhance the viewer experience."
Previously, many filmmakers had taken to shooting with drones in foreign countries to get the shots they wanted, notably the James Bond pic, Skyfall, in Turkey. With the FAA allowing Hollywood productions the legal exemption to fly drones, there also comes a long list of strict safety and compliance rules, aiming for safety and noninterference with commercial aviation. Federal authorities such as the National Park Service won't take these rules lightly and have already made it clear drones would be allowed to fill the air like a swarm of bees. One Danish tourist learned the hard way and got stung with a $3200 fine for failing to comply with government rules.
Despite the slow implementation, progress is being made - but it will continue to be slow going. With forty other requests for exemptions pending, there's quite a backlog the FAA needs to get through. Expect to see draft rules for integrating drones into national airspace by the beginning of 2015.