The FAA recently responded to a request from a group of seven aerial video production companies to allow a special exemption for the use of drones in film production. In a release on its website, the agency says it will consider granting a waiver to the specific companies that requested it. A few days later, a waiver was granted to BP Energy to use a military-style drone to fly over Alaska's North Slope for oil equipment inspections.
The FAA is going through the waiver process while it considers proposed rules to be published in 2015. Current rules allow certain governmental uses of unmanned aerial systems for law enforcement, border patrol operations, disaster response and some firefighting agencies. But most commercial and academic uses remain off-limits, despite pressure from the news media, power line inspectors, real estate firms and many more industries. As the technology continues to develop and improve with proven successes in Europe, Asia and in Canada, drone usage in the U.S. remains hobbled by a lack of appropriate rules.
Even experiments to test how drones might be used in journalism applications have been pushed back. The FAA has told the University of Nebraska - Lincoln not to fly drones outdoors. And just this week, CNN announced it plans to work with the Georgia Insititute of Technology to test how journalists might use drones. It's far from certain the FAA will allow that program to proceed, despite CNN's stated goal of sharing its data with the agency.
RTDNA and other journalism groups have urged the FAA to accelerate its rule-making process to allow drone usage, in the hope of providing safer means of newsgathering and providing better news coverage to serve the public interest.
It's your turn to Sound Off. Do you believe the FAA should grant waivers to the film and oil industries while it continues to draft proposed rules? If movie producers can use drones, should journalists have the same opportunity while waiting for rules to be established? Should journalists at least be allowed to test possible drone uses in the meantime? Let us know in the comments below.