UAS: FAA “Lights…Cameras…UASs!”

A number of recent big budget films have featured drones as a major plot point, including the Bourne Legacy, the RoboCop reboot, and most recently, Captain America:  The Winter Soldier.  Hollywood, however, is also eager to give UASs a big role behind the camera, and the FAA says it is willing to help.

The FAA announced yesterday that it has received applications from seven cinematographers and production companies seeking permission to use UAS’s to film movies.  This appears to be the first step in the FAA’s promised effort to make use of Section 333 of the 2012 FAA Modernization and Reform Act.  Under Section 333, the FAA has authority to give broader authorization to UAS operators without having to go through the ad hoc Certificate of Authorization procedure that has been used up until now.

The Motion Picture Association of America helped coordinate the applications, and is lending support to try to speed and simplify the process for filmmakers in the future.  Hollywood’s interest stems for the potential loss of big movie production dollars if they cannot get on the UAS bandwagon.  For example, a number of big action sequences in the last James Bond movie, Skyfall, as well as the Harry Potter and “Mission Impossible” films were shot using drones, but the production had to occur overseas due to the US ban on commercial UAS use (http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303848104579314520943017890).

While the action on screen in a summer blockbuster seems chaotic, there are few workplaces where the environment is as tightly controlled as a film set.  The movements of all of the cameras, actors, and action is highly choreographed and controlled, and everyone knows where they are supposed to be and what they are supposed to be doing at any given moment.  As a result, UAS and film seem like a natural fit.

The only question remaining . . . are the FAA regulators ready for their close-up?

(Originally posted June 3, 2014)

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