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Drones Fly into Hollywood

September 26, 2014

Tyler Newby, Fenwick & West litigation partner, was spotlighted in a Daily Journal article discussing the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) granting an exemption to cinematography production companies allowing them to use drones in shooting film and TV scenes.

The ruling last Thursday was the first significant instance of the FAA permitting drones to be used for commercial purposes.

"I would imagine that the cost benefits of using a drone instead of paying for fuel and a professional helicopter pilot to film are probably pretty substantial," Newby said.

He also noted that the drones can weigh less than 100 pounds and so may be considerably safer than manned helicopters that can weigh several tons.

The six aerial photo and video production companies that received the exemption are: Astraeus Aerial, Aerial MOB LLC, HeliVideo Productions LLC, Pictorvision Inc., RC Pro Productions Consulting LLC dba Vortex Aerial and Snaproll Media LLC.

The FAA, which described the exemption as a “first step,” stipulated that a drone cannot go higher than 100 feet above the ground and must always remain within the sight of the person licensed to operate the device.

Newby described the exemption as narrow, since the drones are limited to filming scripted dramas, side-stepping privacy concerns that might arise when filming newscasts or reality TV shows.

Newby assured, “They’re not going to be tearing into people's windows.”