CNN was approved for a Part 107 drone waiver by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to fly over people, according to CNN’s October 18th press release. The news organization has been approved by the FAA before for UAV use with tethered drones and in closed sets, but this is a milestone for the drone community because it is the first time a company as large as CNN would be able to use an untethered drone in real world environments. The approved waiver allows CNN to fly a specific drone called Snap over crowds of people at an altitude of 150 feet above ground level (AGL).
The drone that was approved by the FAA is created by a company called Vantage Robotics. It was chosen for its safety features like its built-in propeller guards and deformable material. Vantage Robotics dedicated two years of research and testing to meet safety requirements. The Snap drone weighs 620 grams with a battery, and it can fly for up to 20 minutes. It can shoot 4K videos up to 3840×2160 at 24 or 30 fps using its 1/2.3″ Sony Exmor IMX 377 sensor. It has a flight range of up to 492 feet over WiFi or 0.62 miles with a WiFi range extender. This consumer drone is also available to buy for $899 on the company’s official website, but its shipping date is estimated to be in December.
Fly Over People
At CES 2017, the FAA talked about making legal changes to allow UAVs to fly over people, but it was clear that it would take some time for approval. With the likes of CNN using drones to film and fly over crowds, the FAA has taken a step towards allowing more UAVs to be flown over people under special circumstances. If CNN can continue to demonstrate safe flights over public areas, then they can be seen as an example for the drone community, which will also help shape future drone laws.
“This waiver signifies a critical step forward not only for CNN’s UAS operations, but also the commercial UAS industry at large,” said David Vigilante, SVP of Legal for CNN. “We are truly grateful to the FAA for allowing CNN to demonstrate its continued commitment to safe UAS operations.”
The Snap drone may just be a consumer drone, but its ability to safely shoot 4K aerial footage over people legally is what makes it useful.