FAA to Streamline Permit Process for Drone Filming


Any way you cut it, the commercial use of unmanned drone aircraft is presently illegal in the United States. However, one needn't dig too deep into industries such as filmmaking, real estate, and farming to find the prolific use of drones for professional purposes. Spurred by rapid advances in technology, the Federal Aviation Administration is currently overhauling its official regulations that dictate what is and isn't legal in regard to the commercial use of drones, but this ruling could take well over a year to arrive. In the interim, the FAA is presently considering the creation of a quick permit-approval process for professional drone operators. 

Speaking at the 2014 sUSB Expo in Florida last week, Jim Williams, chief of the FAA's unmanned aircraft division, announced that the US agency is currently considering this quick approval process, and hopes to implement it later this year, ahead of the new laws regulating the use of commercial drones. While this is exciting news for filmmakers, the process is at least six months out, and not expected to go into effect until November of this year.

"In the interim, the FAA is presently considering the creation of a quick
permit-approval process for professional drone operators."


It should be noted that the FAA is stating that this approval process will be for a limited number of operators, and apply only to aircraft weighing fewer than 55 pounds. For a complete understanding of the laws surrounding drone use, be sure to check out the B&H Explora post entitled, Are Quadcopters Legal?  

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If Citizens' Band radio and ultralight aircraft provide any guidance, for every two operators of drones who follow the rules, there will be two thousand who simply figure on not getting caught.

By the way, that should be "less" than 55 pounds, not "fewer".

Also by the way, your server gave me this error when posting this comment: "There was a problem with your form submission. Please wait 59888 seconds and try again."

If the permit is free Ill get it.

The federal government has discovered the joy of "user fees". They're just like new taxes but don't require Congressional approval, making them exceedingly attractive to federal agencies desperate for more and more revenue. Don't expect much for free anymore.

I'm a licensed pilot.

While I do agree to some extent with regulation of UAVs, I am afraid that the FAA will almost surely over-regulate them. As a licensed private pilot myself, I completely agree with the requirement that UAV operators have some sort of training in aviation and the "rules of the road" so to speak. My biggest concern here is that the FAA, in all its infinite wisdom and glory, will require commercial UAV operators to have a. instrument rating and a commercial pilot's license. I hope I am wrong here. Requiring someone to spend in excess of $10K obtain that level of licensure to operate a 14-pound model aircraft would be ridiculous.

I noticed some certified pilots agreeing with a knowledge of the airspace rule of the road, really? Below 400 feet? Is everyone insane in this country? And what has using your drone for payments to do with safer? And how come the FAA excluded several companies from their own rules.. This is Monopolization' completely idiotic, unfair and must be unconstitutional.. Sir Carl..

Isn't a remote control hobby aircraft already a drone by any new definition?

They better make them have TCAS

One could only hope for TCAS aboard each drone, or at a minimum, a squittering transponder. However, the weight of adding a TCAS unit and required accompanying Transponder unit using today's technology would require greater lift capabilities than the typical, privately owned/operated, drone is capable of.

 I am new to this field and need more information. Thanks

"Any way you cut it, the commercial use of unmanned drone aircraft is presently illegal in the United States." 

Not true. Congress has simply given the FAA the mandate to regulate UAV's. They have so far chosen not to exercise that mandate.

As far as how those regulations should look: We already have a common sense model for what would work. Advisory circular 91-57. It has worked for decades. For those flying line-of-sight (the vast majority) ,commercial or otherwise,  it doesn't need to be any more complicated or expensive than this.

Until the FAA goes through the proper process of creating regulations, asking if something is legal or not is ridiculous.

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A HD & Ultra HD cinematographer filming automotive, motorcycle & fly fishing venues.

My charity is putting on a fund raiser in Marina del Rey on June 30,2015. We want to hire professional droners and volunteers to film the event and perhaps have a small drone contest in the park here. How do we go about getting a permit. Our website is www.supportingourservicemen.org. I can be reached at 310-913-5533

I made the mistake of asking for pre-permission to fly my drone 4.6 miles from an airport (you're suppose to notify the airport according to the new FAA rules).  My event isn't until March, so I wanted to give them time to respond.  The problem is, is that I mentioned a non-profit group I was going to film.  I just got a call from the FAA and they informed me that I wouldn't be operating under the Section 336b (model aircraft - hobby or recreational purposes), but rather Section 333.  Section 333 requires you to get an exemption and one of the requirements is a PPL (private pilot's license).  I guess no flying for me, but maybe someelse can capture for footage for me.

I also contacted our local, rural airport since our property is about e miles South of it, explaining my intentions to use my drone :) to collect materials for my own project and for clients etc.. Got a nice answer back to enjoy my Drone and stay below 400 feet, I replied that I shall stay below 300 feet due to or location..

I find it extremely strange how FAA have exlcuded several US Companies from their own rules, yet states that any professional operator, providing aerial services for payment has a pilot license. Being born and educated in Sweden I can't say I recognize how this regulation has anything to do with safety. Furthermore I find that this type of regulation only serve to promote Monopolies and probably is unconstitutional. Today I plan to call FAA, our local police and tomorrow I will write congress.. 

I know, if its a safety concern why do they not care about hobbyists? Hobbyists are going to be more reckless about drones. They only want commercial use people to get a license so they can make money off of it.


Where can you find information for applying for a drone commercial lic. for real estate?

Thank you,

Ron Kikuchi

Hi Ron -

Here are a few websites that can help you keep abreast of the changing laws and regulations regarding aerial imaging for the hobbyist and commercial user:

FAA Offers Guidance to Model Aircraft Operators Academy of Model Aeronautics


Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

 Will someone explain to me why it is illegal to fly for profit. If I have for free is that illegal ? so whats the diffrence? The FAA is jumping on the tech band wagon because they know it's going somewhere and want their cut !

I guess no body can answer this ! because there is no answer!