WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Aviation Administration announced Thursday that it is granting permits to seven movie and television production companies to fly drones.
Original Alert Posted 9/23/14
Several clients have contacted us requesting assistance in obtaining a permit to fly airborne drones for commercial use in their operations. Such aircraft are regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and are referred to by the FAA as Unmanned Aircraft Systems, or UAS. “Model Aircraft” are a subset of UASs, which by definition must be flown strictly for hobby or recreational uses. Currently, UASs that are not Model Aircraft may be operated only with specific authorization from the FAA. Such authorization is extremely limited.
A person may seek authority to operate a UAS under a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) or a Special Airworthiness Certification (SAC). The FAA generally restricts the issuance of COAs to government entities (think unmanned military drones). A SAC may be sought under 14 CFR Part 21. A policy statement issued by the FAA in 2007 stated that the FAA was issuing SACs in only the experimental category. More recent guidance states that the application for a SAC ” . . . is a lengthy process typically undertaken by aircraft manufacturers”. The FAA also has the authority to issue exemptions from its regulatory requirements, but the FAA has issued only a handful of such exemptions. Under the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (the “2012 Act”), the FAA is required to develop a plan ” . . . for the safe integration of civil unmanned aircraft systems into the National Airspace System as soon as practicable, but not later than September 30, 2015.” It should be noted that the FAA has exercised its enforcement powers against people using UASs for commercial purposes.
In conclusion, Model Aircraft may be operated for hobby or recreational uses in accordance with the limitations contained in section 336 of the 2012 Act. Commercial use of the UASs is prohibited unless specifically authorized by the FAA, and such authorizations (or exemptions) are not generally available at this time. The FAA is legally required to develop a plan for the use of UASs for commercial purposes by September 15, 2015.
Bose McKinney & Evans LLP will continue to monitor these developments. Please contact Dan McInerny if you have questions regarding the use of unmanned drones in your operations.