Feds approve CNN for drone flights

Feds approve CNN for drone flights
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The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has approved an application from CNN to fly drones.

The agency issued the approval for CNN to use drones "to conduct aerial photography, aerial videography, and closed-set motion picture and television filming."  

In doing so, it waived requirements for FAA approval of drone flights that are operated outside restricted airspace and below 200 feet. 

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The FAA has approved more than 2,500 drone flights in the process of developing regulations for allowing a rapid expansion of the use of the devices in the U.S.

The agency has faced tremendous pressure to approve an expansion of nonmilitary drone use from companies such as Amazon, which has said the technology can be used to make speedier online deliveries. 

Police and other law enforcement groups were also seeking approval to use the technology, and the FAA has investigated several drone incidents that occurred in conjunction with photography at college and professional sporting events.

The section of law that allows the FAA to grant drone exemptions gives the Transportation Department the authority to drop a requirement that operators of the technology apply for a certificate of airworthiness that is normally required for flights that are formally considered an aircraft. 

In its approval letter to CNN, the FAA said it "has determined that good cause exists for not publishing a summary of the petition in theFederal Register because the requested exemption would not set a precedent, and any delay in acting on this petition would be detrimental to the petitioner."

The agency is requiring CNN to fly drones at altitudes lower than 400 feet above ground level and speeds lower than 100 miles per hour. 

CNN said in its application to the FAA that it was requesting the authority to use drones because it "recognizes that [drones] will have an enormous impact on news production, and for that reason, CNN has been actively involved in efforts to evaluate the technology, personnel and safety needs to operate UAS effectively in the national airspace system. 

"CNN and researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have entered into a joint a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRDA) with the FAA to advance integration of [drones] into the [national airspace] for newsgathering and reporting," the company said. 

"The research initiative aims to better understand the opportunities UAS present for media organizations, and to explore the access and safety issues that need to be addressed as part of any new regulatory framework," the network continued. "Consistent with these continuing efforts to develop new and innovative ways for media outlets to safely and effectively use [drones], CNN seeks an exemption to operate [drones] for aerial data collection in support of its newsgathering and reporting activities." 

The FAA’s proposed rules define small drones as devices that weigh less than 55 pounds and require them to be operated at heights that are less than 500 feet and speeds that are less than 100 miles per hour. 

The regulations also call for drone flights to be limited to daytime hours and conducted only by U.S. residents who are older than 17.

Drone operators are also prohibited under the FAA proposal from conducting flights that take the devices out of their line of vision — a big blow to companies like Amazon that have touted the possibility of using the technology to conduct deliveries.