The FAA is slowly changing its position on drones in a recent special wavier that was granted to CNN for use of drones over large crowds.
Here are the big points in this ruling:
The drones do not have to be tethered as previously required.
- Max altitude is increased to 150 feet from 21 feet.
- Flight is permitted regardless of population density.
FAA’s change in stance is attributable to special circumstances of CNN. For instance, the specific model of drone being used and a culture of organizational safety. However, this “reasonableness approach” sets a precedent for other applicants. Other networks and news outlets may follow suit and request waivers as well. Needless to say we could have several drones flying in close proximity to one another over a crowd in the near future. It will be interesting to see how its decided who gets to fly and when. Will it be first dibs, or a free for all?
It will also be interesting to see if drone manufacturers design drones specifically suited for media use versus the standard DJI Mavic Pros or Sparks flying above. The Vantage Robotics Snap Drone with its propeller guards are one of the safety features I’m sure the FAA took into account while reviewing CNN’s waiver. Time will tell how much use drones receive as a tool for media coverage.