Hollywood aerial camera operators vs. the FAA

From Reuters, a sobering story of the FAA's shutdown of companies providing commercial aerial video services for Hollywood. Excerpt:

The fortunes of Flying-Cam, the aerial filming company that worked on "Skyfall" and worked on movies including the "Harry Potter" and "Mission Impossible" franchises, illustrate the difficulty of fostering a commercial drone industry in the U.S. Flying-Cam, which has offices in Los Angeles, Brussels and Hong Kong, began using small remote-controlled aircraft outfitted with cameras in the 1980s. Such innovations earned company founder Emanuel Previnaire an Academy Award for technical achievement in 1995. But in 2011 Flying-Cam’s U.S. business was effectively grounded when the FAA notified the film industry that flying unmanned aerial systems (UAS) for commercial use was illegal until regulations were finalized.

In 2007 the FAA had quietly clarified its position on what constitutes an aircraft, as non-military UAS were morphing from recreational playthings into genuine aircraft able to fly hundreds of miles, reach elevations above 10,000 feet and carry a sizable payload. This was a de facto ban on the commercial use of drones until the FAA came up with formal rules governing their use. Since many companies were unaware of the change, the FAA began to tell industry officials that the use of drones was not yet legal as it became aware they were using them.

Virtually overnight, Flying-Cam and other companies in the same business were grounded in the U.S. “Everything has been shut down until they regulate it,” says Haik Gazarian, director of operations for Flying-Cam. “The most tragic part is, an industry that was shining in many ways has been reduced. We’re not able to do these sequences in the U.S. We have to take the whole thing outside.”

Flying-Cam laid off more than 30 workers and other companies doing the same type of work have gone bust. Flying-Cam is picking up more overseas business, meanwhile, largely because regulators in countries such as England, France and China have developed new rules that allow and even encourage the commercial use of drones. Flying-Cam recently shot aerial scenes for the forthcoming films "Transformers: Age of Extinction" in Hong Kong and "Smurfs II" in Paris, for instance. And the production for a Sony PlayStation advertisement was recently moved from L.A. to Budapest so the director could include such aerial shots.

Views: 2711

Comment by Gary McCray on December 14, 2013 at 5:07pm

A small step for the FAA and a Giant Leap for Mankind - - - > Backwards.

Comment by mP1 on December 14, 2013 at 7:14pm

What about flying helicopters that do traffic reports or golf tournaments etc ?

Comment by Gary Mortimer on December 14, 2013 at 10:18pm

As we all know the Amazon thing was filmed in Canada to avoid regs. Moving to Alaska or Europe would be a very smart thing to do if you were a 20 year old wanting to get into the industry properly in the USA before you were 25 at very least. The company chosen for the 2017 civil trial in mainland USA is going to be a hot ticket. Lets hope its not just one of the military vendors already operating.

Comment by Morli on December 15, 2013 at 2:17am

Now why would the legislators cry that business in US is being outsourced!!.  It is cheaper, easier, and legal else where, thats why. Where else can they go?   If delay tactics or some funny  regulations are there just to prove who has got the bigger D , then fine, this is going to happen.

Comment by Rob_Lefebvre on December 15, 2013 at 5:56am

I didn't realize Flying-Cam had shut down.  They had really nice machinery!

Comment by John Arne Birkeland on December 15, 2013 at 9:42am

They didn't shut down, but are forced to do all aerial filming outside of US.

Comment by Graham Harding on December 15, 2013 at 2:54pm

CASA (Civil Aviation Safety Authority) are the FAA equivalent here in Australia, the link will take you to the CASA UAV site where they lay out the guidelines for commercial UAV operations, an interesting read. Hopefully the FAA will read it as well, as I'm sure they visit here on a regular basis, that way they could just copy and paste it to get the US UAV commercial industry off the ground. It's really not that hard, is it?

Comment by Gary Hunkin on December 16, 2013 at 6:10am

I have seen the fast and furious filming in London with a multicopter. So becides the USA it is booming...

Comment by John Moore on December 16, 2013 at 10:26am

I wouldnt be suprised if Canada passed more drone friendly laws to fill the void. Vancouver is already a popular alternative to Hollywood for films and television.

Comment by Andrew Rabbitt on December 16, 2013 at 3:40pm

So, if Mr Pirker wins his case, will Flying Cam et al be lining up to deliver their lawsuits against the FAA for unlawful restraint of trade...?


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