CNN Awarded First FAA Waiver Allowing Drone Flights Over Crowds

  • Waiver allows drones to fly over people to cover news events
  • FAA approval is a milestone for the commercial use of drones

The Future of High-Powered Commercial Drones

CNN received a waiver allowing routine drone flights above crowds, a milestone for the industry seeking greater use of the remote-controlled devices for everything from insurance inspections to covering news.

The approval is the first time the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has granted a waiver for unlimited flights over people, the news network said in an emailed statement. The standards used in the application can be applied to other applicants, potentially opening vast new uses by the media and other industries for so-called unmanned aerial systems, or UAS.

“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, senior vice president of legal for CNN.

The FAA currently prohibits drone flights overhead, although its regulations allow for waivers if applicants can show there’s no risk of injury. Limited waivers have been issued to filmmakers and others for flights over contained areas after those on the ground consented.

The small device that was approved, a Snap drone, has internal rotors and is designed to break apart in the event of a crash to prevent injuries. Time Warner Inc.’s CNN and Vantage Robotics, the company that built it, say they spent two years designing and testing the drone.

The Snap drone weighs 1.37 pounds (0.62 kilograms), and its four rotors are encased to reduce the chances of injury. It’s designed to break into harmless smaller pieces if it crashes, according to the company’s website. It can be snapped back together and reused after a crash, according to the company.

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