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Hollywood Producers Want to Use Drones to Film Their Movies

Steve Capachietti pilots his drone with video camera attached on the bottom while taking video.

Steve Capachietti pilots his drone with video camera attached on the bottom while taking video. // Jim Cole/AP

Hollywood filmmakers may be among the first to get approval to use commercial drones, the Federal Aviation Administration announced Monday, noting that seven production companies are requesting permission to film with unmanned aircraft.

The companies put in requests through the Motion Picture Association of America, seeking exemptions to the FAA's ban on commercial drones. The agency is working on more-universal drone regulations, but for now commercial operations are approved on a case-by-case basis. Only limited flights over the Arctic Ocean have been allowed so far.

The agency noted "tangible economic benefits" if the film operations are approved, but cautioned that safety concerns would have to be addressed before Hollywood drones can take off.

"[Approval] is going to be quite likely," said Patrick Egan, a drone expert who edits sUAS News. "If there's going to be any exemption, that's the one." Film sets are usually closed environments, and the industry has no shortage of aviation- and aerial-photography experts. Plus, he added, "the film industry has lots of political clout, which doesn't hurt."

One applicant, Snaproll Media, emphasized it would be using "private or controlled access property" for its shoots.

"[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."

This article appears in the June 3, 2014 edition of NJ Daily.

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