Will latest FAA decision open the door for ‘DroneCams’?

The Federal Aviation Administration has announced it will approve certain routine commercial drone flights, a move that, while still limiting, could be beneficial to TV news gathering.

The rules only cover drones under 55 pounds, but could potentially open the doors for drones to be used in TV news gathering as well as advertising and film production uses.

Currently commercial drone operators need to apply for a waiver from the FAA, with 6,100 such waivers currently approved and another 7,600 backlogged for approval.

Multiple TV stations, including in New York and Chicago, are already using drones for news gathering, though it is typically done through a third party independent company that holds the waiver from the FAA.

An outline of the rules expected to be announced was inadvertently posted online last month and indicates the FAA will require an exam and identity verification process as part of the licensing procedures.

It’s important to note, however, that the new rules still require operators keep the drone in eyesight, which could be a key stumbling block for TV stations looking to use drones to replace expensive helicopters completely.

Drones also will be banned from flying over people, near airports or higher than 400 feet.


Though this ruling does, in theory, allow TV stations to apply for their own licenses to operate drones, it’s also possible that stations could outsource the ownership and operation of drones to an outside company like many do for helicopters.