The Federal Aviation Administration has run a pretty tight ship when it comes to allowing commercial enterprises to use drones. As the gatekeepers of this innovative new technology, the FAA has pretty much banned all drone use in the private sector, much to the chagrin of industries such as Hollywood and agriculture, which see a diverse array of uses for the technology, and have been aggressively lobbying Washington to ease up on the restrictions.
Now it looks like all those lobbying dollars were well spent. The FAA announced on Monday that they were authorizing a study into how commercial drones can be integrated into America’s airspace, following a petition filed by seven members of the Motion Picture Association of America for an exemption to the drone ban.
“Drones offer the motion picture and television industry an innovative and safer option for filming,” said the MPAA’s Neil Fried. “We welcome the FAA’s leadership and support their guidance to safely authorize the use of [unmanned aircraft systems] for the motion picture and television industry.”
“If the exemption requests are granted, there could be tangible economic benefits as the agency begins to address the demand for commercial [Unmanned Aerial Systems] operations,” the FAA said in a press release. “However, all the associated safety issues must be carefully considered to make sure any hazards are appropriately mitigated. The petitioner must still obtain operational approval from the FAA.”
This response comes after Congress asked the agency to come up with a plan for greater drone integration by 2015. Specifically this roadmap will have to take into consideration how drones can operate safely while sharing airspace with commercial flights, as well as look at ways to protect citizens from having their privacy compromised by drones passing through.
The film industry isn’t the only sector interested in using drones for commercial purposes. The agriculture industry has also expressed interest in the technology as a cheap and easy way to monitor crops, and have invested heavily in lobbying for greater integration.
Other commercial enterprises, from events companies, oil and gas refineries and even the Washington Nationals Major League Baseball team have sought to use drones to film events. This latest decision by the FAA to honor a petition from the MPAA and move forward with developing drone guidelines shows a commitment to integrating the technology into America’s private sector, and could dramatically change the operations of a number of industries within the year.