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Speech – "FAA Exemptions for Commercial UAS Movie and TV Production"

"FAA Exemptions for Commercial UAS Movie and TV Production"
Michael Huerta, Washington, DC
September 25, 2014

Press Briefing


Thank you, Secretary Foxx. 

We recognize the potential unmanned aircraft bring to business, such as surveying, movie making, farming, monitoring pipelines and electric lines, as well as countless other industries. Our challenge at the FAA is to integrate unmanned aircraft into the busiest, most complex airspace system in the world—and to do so while we maintain our mission—protecting the safety of the American people in the air and on the ground.  We are taking a reasonable and responsible approach. We are introducing unmanned aircraft into America’s airspace incrementally and with the interest of safety first. 

This process opens up a whole new avenue for companies and organizations wishing to safely integrate unmanned aircraft into their business.  In addition, it’s a major step forward in our plan for safe and staged integration.

So, how does it work? As part of their petition, these firms asked the FAA for exemptions from regulations that address general flight rules, pilot certificate requirements, manuals, maintenance and equipment mandates.

To receive the exemptions, the firms had to show that their UAS operations would provide an equivalent level of safety to the rules and that the operations would be in the public interest. 

In their applications, these aerial photo and video firms said the operators of the unmanned aircraft will hold private pilot certificates, and keep the unmanned aircraft within line of sight at all times. They’ll also restrict flights to the "sterile area" on the set. 

We accepted their safety conditions as outlined and added a requirement for an inspection of the aircraft before each flight.  We also prohibited operations at night. But we have informed the operators that we are willing to revisit the night operations when they can provide information about additional safety controls they plan to put in place.  

We are also going to issue Certificates of Waiver or Authorization to these companies to address Air Traffic operational issues.  And to comply with those waivers, operators must report to the FAA any accidents or incidents that occur.

I should note, seven aerial video companies filed identical petitions at the same time.  We are granting exemptions to six today.  One petition is still under review—we are working with the company to obtain additional, required information.

These are just the first of about 40 petitions that have been filed ranging from pipeline patrolling to crop surveys.  We will continue to review those requests on an ongoing basis and we expect they will be addressed in the coming weeks and months.

We were able to take this important step through collaboration with the Motion Picture Association of America. The Association facilitated the exemption requests on behalf of these seven members—helping to develop a standard safety manual and operating procedures that could be used by any television or motion picture member. We are encouraging other industry associations to develop similar procedures for their membership and help facilitate petitions.

I’d like to turn it over to Senator Christopher Dodd, Chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America.

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