drones for newsgathering

The Federal Aviation Administration’s (“FAA’s”) recently established rules to allow the commercial operation of small unmanned aircraft systems (“sUAS”) – more commonly known as “drones” – took effect on Monday, August 29, 2016.  We previously wrote about these rules (and the opportunities and risks they present for broadcasters) here and here.  For those eager to get their newsgathering drones off the ground, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Certification.  Under the new rule, all operations must be conducted by, or under the supervision of, a person who holds a “remote pilot certificate.”  The least resource-intensive way to achieve this certification is for licensed pilots (with up-to-date flight reviews) to take a free online training course.  Novice flyers without a pilot’s license are required to pass an aeronautical knowledge test and also meet certain age and security clearance requirements.  Luckily, there are resources available (here and here) to usher you through the process.
Continue Reading Reminder that Broadcasters May Now Leverage the FAA’s Small Drone Rules

New FAA rules for drones were recently approved, and the rules may provide more opportunities for broadcasters to get in the game.  Emilie de Lozier from my firm offers these thoughts:

Broadcasters, prepare for takeoff later this summer.  The Federal Aviation Administration recently finalized rules to broadly permit the commercial operation of small unmanned aircraft systems (“sUAS”) – or drones – provided certain requirements are met.  The new rules are in many cases more permissive than the existing regulatory framework, but some potential pitfalls remain.  Rest assured, we are here to help you navigate the complexities of this new regime.  Below we provide a high-level discussion of the new rules and their effect on broadcasters’ future sUAS operations to support newsgathering.

We previously wrote about the FAA rulemaking to develop these rules here.  As a quick refresher, in 2012, Congress directed the FAA to develop a plan for incorporating drones into the national airspace.  In the meantime, the FAA created an exemption process pursuant to Section 333 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 to authorize commercial UAS operations on a case-by-case basis.  The FAA has granted more than 5,000 exemption requests to date, including for newsgathering purposes, and thousands of these requests remain pending.  (If your petition is among those pending, you should monitor your petition docket for a status update from the FAA in the coming weeks.)  The new rules are intended to minimize the need for parties, including broadcasters, to seek such exemptions.
Continue Reading FAA Clears Small Drones for Takeoff: What You Need to Know

With the Federal Aviation Administration convening a task force to require the registration of most drones, I thought that it was worth taking another look at the current rules regulating the use of by media companies of what are more officially called unmanned aerial systems (“UAS”) and unmanned aerial vehicles (commonly called “drones”). We offered some discussion of the FAA process to license drone for commercial use a few months ago, here. Rachel Wolkowitz (see her bio here), one of the attorneys following these issues for our law firm Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP in Washington, DC, offers these broad observations on how drones can be used for newsgathering under current FAA rules, and offers some cautions for both current and future use.

The use of drones presents great opportunity, and potential risk, for newscasters. Drones can be cheaper to fly than helicopters, and potentially can get closer to the action. On the other hand, drone technology is still nascent and safer operating technologies – e.g. sense-and-avoid systems that use internal systems to find and avoid hazards – are still being developed. Federal, state, and local governments are struggling with the potential safety and privacy implications that follow from putting thousands of drones in the sky for a variety of uses.  They are creating a patchwork of laws, rules, and policies that have the potential to trigger liability for broadcasters.  Below, we provide a high-level discussion of some key legal considerations for operating drones for news gathering.
Continue Reading Using Drones for TV News – What are the Legal Issues?

Drones are coming up more and more often as I travel the country to speak to broadcaster groups. It has become a hot issue, both at the Federal level and in many states. I asked two attorneys in my firm who are watching this issue to do an update on where things stand. Bob Kirk (bio here) and Rachel Wolkowitz (here) have provided the following update on where things stand on the Federal level:

Broadcasters increasingly are looking at drones, or “unmanned aircraft systems” (“UAS”) in FAA parlance, as a more cost-effective option for gathering aerial video and photos. After all, small drones can be used to gather aerial news footage for a fraction of the cost associated with using a helicopter. However, before going out and flying one, be warned, the FAA deems newsgathering a “commercial” use currently prohibited under its rules.

In February, the FAA proposed new rules that would open the skies up to small drones for some limited uses. Congress has ordered the FAA to integrate drones in the national airspace by September 2015, but most experts believe that the deadline will not be met. Indeed, the consensus is that it will take approximately two years to compile a record, review the comments, and adopt final rules for small drones, which the FAA says is the first step in letting many types of UAS take flight.
Continue Reading Will Drones Soon Become an Effective Tool for Broadcasters?