FAA Unveils Drone Rules February 16 2015, 0 Comments

The use of aerial drones in filmmaking has really escalated in the last few years due in large part to the affordability and the quality of new high tech products - such as the DJI Phantom copters (and now the new Inspire, see video below) and of course the GoPro Hero cameras.

We've shot footage for this site (more coming soon) and for other productions including films and commercials using these awesome tools, and so when we heard recently that strict rules from the U.S. government were coming soon - it was a concern.

The FAA announced it's proposed rules Sunday (2/15/15) and while they are restrictive, they aren't as bad as was originally thought. 

The FAA proposal would allow drones weighing up to 55 pounds to fly within sight of their remote pilots during daylight hours. The aircraft must stay below 500 feet in the air and fly less than 100 mph.

People flying drones would need to be at least 17 years old, pass an aeronautics test and be vetted by the Transportation Security Administration, but a certificate wouldn't require the flight hours or medical rating of a private pilot's license.

That last part was a big area of concern... "rating of a private pilot's license". It was reported that could be the case - to fly a drone you'd need as much training as an actually pilot - which seemed ridiculous.

These requirements aren't terrible, but not great either.. what type of "aeronautics test" are we talking about? Also, only be able to fly during the day? What about the great fireworks videos we've seen recently?

While we do understand that safety is paramount - especially in regards to drones flying near commercial aircraft - we also hope they don't over regulate this growing industry making it hard (or discouraging) for people to get legally licensed (Or is that even the case? Is a "license" required?).

One thing to note here is a lot of this stems around surveillance drones and larger commercial drones... not filmmaking per se. And, hobbyists are not required to take any action...

The new FAA proposal doesn't apply to hobbyists. The agency already issued a policy for recreational use, with rules calling for flying less than 400 feet high and within sight of the operator, while keeping clear of other aircraft and notifying air-traffic control when flying within 5 miles of an airport.

But where do you draw the line between hobbyist and commercial-use? If you're getting paid that would normally mean you're doing it commercially. But, what about indie films or low to no budget projects in general. In the end that's likely up to the individual owner/operators and the size and scope (and pay) of projects they work on.

What do you think? Do you own a drone? Let us know in the comments below.

It will be interesting to see how this unfolds over the next several years