Hollywood may soon have an eye in the sky for shooting television shows and movies

The Federal Aviation Administration said Thursday it has approved exemptions that would allow video and photo production companies to use drones on closed film sets. After being pressured by seven filmmaking companies and the Motion Picture Association of America, the FAA said six of those seven companies could use drones equipped with cameras on certain TV and movie sets.

Until now, the FAA has restricted commercial drone use to special situations in the Alaskan wilderness. It also says it does not need to issue a certificate of airworthiness for drones used in this way because they don’t threaten national airspace or national security.

The six companies that got approval will be allowed to use drones for filming on outdoor television and movie sets that are closed to the public. The companies must inspect the equipment before flight and notify the FAA that they are filming. The drones may not fly higher than 400 feet and must be operated by a technician that has a pilot’s license.

This decision could pave the way for commercial drone use in other industries, such as real estate, agriculture, and news media. The FAA says there are at least 40 pending applications from companies outside of Hollywood, including Amazon, which is looking for the go-ahead on their proposed drone delivery service.


Chris Schuster, owner and pilot of Vortex Aerial, one of the production companies that petitioned the FAA to allow the use of drones by the entertainment industry in the US.

Mark Dombroff, Partner at the Virginia-based law firm McKenna Long & Aldridge. He concentrates his practice on the aviation and transportation industry, including litigation, regulatory, administrative and enforcement matters, security, National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigations and employee related issues.