Global law firm assists CNN to legally fly drones ‘over people'

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Hogan Lovells assisted CNN to become the first US company to be granted the right to fly Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) “over people.”
 
With the first-of-its-kind waiver from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the news organisation can now legally use UAS for news gathering and reporting activities.
 
According to the global law firm, CNN’s success comes at a critical moment for the UAS industry with Part 107 of the FAA’s Small UAS Rule – which broadly allows commercial use of UAS in the US – coming into effect yesterday.
 
The rule, however, prohibits UAS flights directly over people unless granted special permission by the FAA.
 
Hogan Lovells assisted CNN in filing the application for its waiver to fly a Fotokite Pro, a small, tethered drone platform, over areas with unsheltered people who are not directly participating in the UAS operation.
 
The Hogan Lovells team consisted of Lisa Ellman, Partner and Co-chair of the firm's Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Practice, and Matt Clark, Senior Associate in the Aviation and UAS practice groups.
 
“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,” Ellman said.
 
“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.”
 
CNN has been has been actively evaluating technology, personnel and safety needs to operate UAS effectively and safely in the National Airspace System.
 
Hogan Lovells noted in its announcement that commercial UAS can be very useful in applications including disaster response, newsgathering, and aerial photography, but these applications 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,” the law firm said in its announcement.
 
The news organisation is also part of the FAA's Pathfinder Program, which has been exploring how UAS might be safely used for newsgathering in populated areas, the law firm said.
 
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 use of UAS has huge promise for newsgatherers and consumers of news. The ability to fly over people is a huge step forward, and a necessary one as we cover the news where it happens. We look forward to continue to work in partnership with the FAA to move UAS policy boundaries forward for the industry,” said David Vigilante, Senior Vice President of Legal for CNN, in a statement.
 
“Not only is this a milestone moment for CNN, this approval is a milestone for the commercial UAS industry as a whole,” said Ellman.
 

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