Hogan Lovells announced on 29 August 2016, that it successfully assisted CNN in its receipt of a first of its kind waiver from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to legally fly unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) across the country for news gathering and reporting activities ‘over people.’
CNN’s success comes at a critical moment for the UAS industry. Part 107 of the Small UAS Rule became effective — for the first time broadly allowing commercial use of UAS in the United States. However, under the rule UAS flights directly over people are still prohibited unless an organization has received special permission from the FAA.
Some of the most promising applications of commercial UAS – including disaster response, newsgathering, and aerial photography – require the ability to fly over people. CNN’s success securing a waiver to fly over people therefore represents a huge step forward for the industry at large.
CNN worked with Hogan Lovells to file an application for a certificate of waiver that would permit the organization to operate a Fotokite Pro, a small, tethered drone platform, over areas with unsheltered people who are not directly participating in the UAS operation.
CNN, which reaches more Americans via television, the web and mobile devices than any other TV news organization, has been actively evaluating technology, personnel and safety needs to operate UAS effectively and safely in the National Airspace System. CNN is also part of the FAA’s Pathfinder Program, which has been exploring how UAS might be safely used for newsgathering in populated areas.
CNN will use UAS to gather and disseminate news and other important information in situations where it would be unsafe or costly to fly a conventional helicopter, including emergency and disaster situations.
The Hogan Lovells team consisted of Lisa Ellman, Partner and Co-chair of the firm’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Practice, Matt Clark, Senior Associate in the Aviation and UAS practice groups, and Pat Rizzi, Counsel in the Aviation and UAS practice groups.
Hogan Lovells partner Lisa Ellman said:
“As this is the first time a company will be allowed to fly UAS over people in unsheltered areas in the United States, CNN’s victory is a significant milestone for commercial drone operators all over the country. It’s also a major victory for consumers of news – as this will allow CNN viewers to witness events across the country in ways that would not have been previously possible. We are thrilled with the FAA’s decision and hope the government and industry leaders capitalize on this momentum to see commercial drones safely and broadly integrated into our airspace.”