December 8, 2019

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Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Authorizes Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) Use in Hollywood

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) took one large step to integrating unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) into the national airspace last week by granting regulatory exemptions to six aerial photo and video production companies and considering the application of a seventh. This announcement marks the first time that commercial UAVs in any industry have been authorized by the FAA to fly in the continental United States.

The video production companies petitioned the FAA in May for an exemption under Section 333 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, which allows the Secretary of Transportation to grant exemptions for certain UAV systems if he determines that they can operate safely within the national airspace. Due to the remote nature of the typical film set, Hollywood is an ideal test case for the FAA to begin integration.

The FAA did impose restrictions on the production companies. All UAV operators must hold private pilot certificates, keep the UAV within the line of sight at all times during flight and flights must be restricted to a “sterile area” on the set. Additionally, all UAVs must be inspected before every flight and they are not allowed to fly at night.

“These companies are blazing a trail that others are already following, offering the promise of new advances in agriculture and utility safety and maintenance,” said Anthony Foxx, U.S. Transportation Secretary. The UAV market is set to explode now that the FAA has stopped outright refusing to allow commercial drone use in the U.S. The FAA is currently considering 40 requests for exemptions from other commercial entities.



About this Author

Connie Lahn, Barnes Thornburg Law Firm, Minneapolis, Corporate and Litigation Law Attorney

Connie A. Lahn is the managing partner of the Minneapolis office of Barnes & Thornburg. She is a member of the Finance, Insolvency and Restructuring Department and co-chairs the Asset Revitalization Practice Group. Ms. Lahn is also the co-chair of the firm’s Special Servicer Team. She also serves on the firm's diversity and inclusion committee. Ms. Lahn focuses her practice on bankruptcy law, workouts, equipment leasing issues, foreclosures, real estate remedies, commercial mortgage-backed securities defaults, and related commercial litigation. Additionally, she...

Clifford G. Maine, Barnes Thornburg Law Firm, Grand Rapids, Corporate Law Attorney

Clifford G. Maine is chairman of the firm’s Aviation Law Group. Mr. Maine's practice encompasses a wide variety of aviation law practice areas. He serves as general counsel to numerous aviation organizations, including the Southwest Michigan Regional Airport Authority.

Mr. Maine’s aviation clients include some of the largest corporate flight departments in the world. He has structured numerous aviation transactions, including domestic and foreign-based aircraft purchase and sale transactions, like-kind exchanges, timeshare agreements, interchange agreements, joint and fractional ownership agreements, personal and executive use policies, FAA registrations, Capetown International Registry, and aircraft leasing transactions. Mr. Maine also provides legal counsel on tax-related aviation issues including federal excise tax planning, state sales and use tax planning, and depreciation planning.

In addition to his transactional practice, Mr. Maine regularly represents clients in complex aviation lawsuits and frequently advises on aviation insurance coverage matters, warranty matters, ongoing service requirements, and regulatory requirements.

He is a founding member and Chair of the Tax Committee of the National Business Aircraft Association and serves on the Board of Directors of the Michigan Business Aircraft Association. Mr. Maine also serves on the State Bar of Michigan Aviation Section (a section of the bar in which he acted as a founding member and past chairperson).

Jason Karlov, Barnes and Thornburg Law Firm, Los Angeles, Corporate and Media Law Attorney

Jason Karlov is the Entertainment, Media and Sports Practice Group Chair at Barnes & Thornburg. He represents a variety of clients in the music, entertainment, live events, advertising and technology industries. His clients include individuals, such as Bob Dylan and Stevie Wonder, as well as institutions that work and invest in entertainment and technology, including such well-known brands as DreamWorks, Lionsgate, Merrill Lynch, the Olympics, Samsung, VeriSign and Yahoo!.

The work that Mr. Karlov handles for his clients requires his knowledge of, and participation in, virtually...