Filmmakers Can Start Using Drones in the U.S.

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There are dozens of businesses lobbying the FAA for permission to fill the sky with drones, but rather than giving the go-ahead to news agencies, farmers, wedding videographers, or tech companies, the agency is starting with filmmakers. The Associated Press reports that the government is expected to announce on Thursday that it’s granting drone permits to seven film production companies. Previously, the FAA has only given permits to two companies operating in remote parts of Alaska, but the moviemakers will be allowed to film on closed sets in the United States, bringing us one step closer to having unmanned aircraft constantly whirring overhead.

The move is a big step for all businesses interested in drone technology, but companies are watching closely to see what restrictions are attached to the permits. In their applications the seven companies — Astraeus Aerial, Aerial Mob, Flying-Cam, Snaproll Media, Vortex Aerial, Pictorvision and HeliVideo Productions — asked to operate drones that weigh less than 55 pounds, fly no faster than 57 miles per hour, and no higher than 400 feet. The flights would be conducted at least 100 feet away from people who aren’t part of the production crew. Drones would be operated by a three-person team, including a trained drone operator, and the companies would submit flight plans to the FAA three days before filming.

Tony Carmean, a partner in Aerial MOB of San Diego, told the AP that drones will fundamentally change moviemaking, allowing directors to get shots that were never before possible. American audiences have already seen drone-captured footage in many movies — such as Man of Steel, Skyfall, Star Trek: Into Darkness, The Hunger Games, The Dark Knight Rises, and Iron Man 3 — but the sequences had to be filmed overseas.

The FAA is behind schedule in drawing up regulations that would allow the widespread use of drones for commercial purposes, but it’s expected to issue them by the end of the year. They probably won’t take effect until at least 2016, so for the time being you’ll still have to wait a whole day for stuff you order online to miraculously show up at your front door.