Media giant CNN has been granted a waiver to make routine drone flights above crowds, a milestone for the drone industry, which is expected to experience dramatic growth in the next few years.
The Part 107 waiver represents the first time the Federal Aviation Administration has awarded a waiver for unlimited flights of unmanned aerial vehicles over people, the news network said in a statement. FAA rules prohibit drone flights over people, but waivers are available when applicants can demonstrate no risk of injury.
"This waiver signifies a critical step forward not only for CNN's UAS operations, but also the commercial UAS industry at large," David Vigilante, senior vice president of legal for CNN, said in a statement.
New FAA regulations for commercial use of drones went into effect in August 2016, making it easier for pilots to use drones for everything from structural or crop inspection to search-and-rescue operations to film production.
CNN will be allowed to fly a Vantage Robotics Snap drone weighing 1.37 pounds and featuring four enclosed rotors to reduce the chance of injury. The device is designed to break apart and be snapped back together if it crashes.
The move comes as the drone industry experiences meteoric growth. The FAA expects the number of commercial drones to grow from 42,000 at the end of 2016 to about 442,000 aircraft by 2021.
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