FAA clarifies use of drone video for news

May 7, 2015 01:30

By Mike Cavender, RTDNA Executive Director

There’s been a fair amount of confusion in recent months over whether TV stations and other news outlets may use and/or pay for drone video offered them by third-parties.  This week, the FAA issued a memo attempting to clarify that question.

The FAA restated its current policy that news-gathering outlets may only operate their own drones with specific permission from the FAA (generally only granted for a specific purpose or event, rather than a “blanket” permission.)

More importantly, at least in the short term, seems to be the government’s OK for newsgatherers to accept and broadcast drone-produced video from someone not affiliated with the station or outlet; i.e.; viewers or other interested parties who may operate drones as a hobby.
Further, the FAA says it’s OK to pay these individuals for their footage—so long as the supplier’s primary intent in shooting and providing it was not to engage in a business proposition. “Intent” is the key word here—and it’s something the FAA says it will examine, if necessary, to insure these third-party drone operators still qualify as hobbyists, rather than business operators.

The FAA has authorized some limited testing and development activities for news-gathering drones—giving CNN, among a few others, authority to operate them for that purpose.   In its memo, the FAA says that news footage gathered by those organizations while conducting their tests, may also be used on air and online.
As we’ve reported, the FAA is conducting rulemaking activities on “line-of-sight” operations of drones for commercial use.  Once these rules are finalized, TV stations and others will be authorized to operate their own unmanned aircraft.  RTDNA has been closely involved in this process and recently filed extensive comments on the proposal.

We will continue to keep you posted as more drone developments occur.