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.

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Comment by Patrick McKay on December 16, 2013 at 9:36pm

Sadly I doubt there is any way the FAA can be held accountable for stiffing a growing industry under the pretense of an invalidly adopted rule that they must have known wasn't enforceable from the start. Honestly I'm surprised that Trappy is the first one to challenge this. You would think some of the companies referenced in the article would have fought the shutdown, rather than meekly accepting the FAA's lies and closing down their business.

I wish DIYDrones would be more adamant about this. At this point (or at least once the judge rules on the case), we should be shouting from the rooftops that the alleged ban on commercial UAS is a sham and that companies are in fact free to use them however they wish in the US, no matter what FAA "policy" says.


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Comment by Morli on December 16, 2013 at 10:52pm

Andrew,

May be they can pool their resources and fight together.  If every one is going to fight separately then I doubt the outcome. Just remember never to fall for the " Divide and rule"  technique :).

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