The FAA has granted six aerial photo and video operators permission to use small unmanned aircraft (UAVs) for filming on closed sets through a process the agency says provides a model for early approval of commercial UAVs for other applications.

The six operators applied for exemptions to the ban on flying commercial UAVs in national airspace in petitions coordinated by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). They are The FAA is still working to approve a seventh operator, says Administrator Michael Huerta.
Film-industry operations have been authorized under Section 333 of the 2012 FAA reauthorization legislation, which allows the agency to grant regulatory exemptions for tightly controlled, low-risk operations, he says.
The exemptions allow operators to fly a UAV without an airworthiness certificate within the sterile airspace of a closed set, using a certified pilot with a private pilot’s license and keeping the vehicle within line of sight of the operator.
Exemptions were granted to Astraeus Aerial, Aerial MOB, HeliVideo Productions, Pictorvision Inc., RC Pro Productions Consulting, and Snaproll Media. A request from Flying-Cam Inc. is among those still under review.
Huerta says the FAA is reviewing another 40 requests for exemptions, including from the agricultural, survey and pipeline inspection industries. These will be addressed “in the coming weeks and months,” he says. Handling this first petition took 120 days.
The agency has posted guidelines online for preparing a petition and is encouraging other operators to apply for exemptions, and for particularly organizations representing industry sectors to develop petitions similar to that submitted by the MPAA.
“Any commercial organization can apply for an exemption,” says Huerta.
He adds, however, that it has yet to be determined how operations such as news-gathering and aerial filming of weddings or homes for sale can be addressed to ensure they are low risk.

** Section 333 authorization specifies low-risk applications.