This is a new precedent for this kind of waiver. Previous exemptions allowed the flight of drones over people in closed set operations (like for filmmaking purposes) and only when tethered, with a max height of 21 feet. But now CNN has been awarded a waiver regarding its commercial drone operating license with the FAA.
This waiver/exemption allows CNN to fly its Vantage Robotics Snap drone over open-air crowds of people at altitudes of up to 150 feet, sparking privacy concerns. The new waiver, as secured through its legal counsel Hogan Lovells, allows for the flight of the Vantage UAV (which is quite small and light) above crowds regardless of population density. It was a big win for the firm and the company because it represents a change in perspective on the issue for the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration), which previously viewed all requests for exceptions from a “worst-case scenario” point of view.
The FAA has now accepted CNN’s “reasonableness approach,” which takes into account not just the potential results of a crashed drone, but also the safe operating history of the company doing the flying, their built-in safety procedures, and the features included on the drone model itself that are designed to mitigate the results of any negative issues.
“This waiver signifies a critical step forward not only for CNN’s UAS operations but also the commercial UAS industry at large,” said David Vigilante, SVP of Legal for CNN. “We are truly grateful to the FAA for allowing CNN to demonstrate its continued commitment to safe UAS operations.”
This could definitely be an asset to news gathering since a drone’s eye view of protests, demonstrations, and other large groups would indeed aid in telling the story. Drone use also means not having to locate and fly a helicopter whenever this is desired. Helicopters can cause a lot of damage in freefall into crowds which is why the new safety consideration by the FAA makes more sense than the one it replaces.
Only time will tell if this will end up violating the privacy rights of others. But knowing mainstream media outlets, that’s most likely a given.
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