More commercial drones set for takeoff as FAA grants new exemptions

The Federal Aviation Administration has opened the door to more commercial drone use, granting eight regulatory exemptions to firms working in film and television production, aerial photography, and industrial inspection.

Companies receiving exemptions include Total Safety U.S., which inspects flare stacks in the oil industry, and aerial photography specialist Slugwear. Team 5, Shotover Camera Systems, Helinet Aviation Services, and Alan D. Purwin were also granted exemptions for film and television production. Additionally, the FAA amended the exemptions previously granted to Pictorvision, which supplies stabilized camera systems, and film production specialist Aerial MOB. The amendments allow the companies to fly additional types of small drones, also known as Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS).

Commercial use of drones is largely banned. Up to now, only a small number of exemptions have been granted.

“Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx found that the UAS in the proposed operations do not need an FAA-issued certificate of airworthiness because they do not pose a threat to national airspace users or national security,” explained the FAA, in a statement. “In granting the exemptions, the FAA considered the planned operating environments and required certain conditions and limitations to assure the safe operation of these UAS in the National Airspace System. For example, operations require both a pilot and observer, the pilot must have at least an FAA Private Pilot certificate and a current medical certificate, and the UAS must remain within line of sight at all times.”

Alan D. Purwin, founder of Helinet Aviation Services, which is also the majority owner of Shotover Camera Systems, told that small unmanned aerial systems reduce the risks involved in filming from a helicopter. In particular, he sees great opportunities for filming wildlife. "This is going to let us do things that are a lot more intimate to nature and get closer with wildlife without a negative impact on the environment," he said.

Drone incidents, such as the quadcopter that crashed onto the White House grounds last month, have thrust the technology into the spotlight. Security concerns also prompted the FAA to implement a no drone-zone around Sunday’s Super Bowl at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.

Including the latest exemptions, which were granted on Tuesday, the FAA has granted a total of 24 regulatory exemptions. The FAA said that it had received 342 requests for exemptions from businesses and individuals as of Feb.3.

Tucson, Ariz. realtor Doug Trudeau is the first in the country approved by the FAA to use a drone for real estate photography. He says using his quadcopter to film houses will allow him to sell the homes for more.

"It just brings a different perspective that allows homes to sell faster and for more money. Someone stuck in a blizzard in New York looks at a house in Tucson from a bird’s eye view- you see the mountains and the sunshine,” he told “It’s shown that homes that use aerial photography sell for 3 percent more."

Doug first began using a drone in late 2013, but stopped in June 2014 when the FAA warned the drone could not be used for commercial purposes. The next month, Trudeau and his lawyer applied for an exemption with the FAA. And in early January 2015, the FAA announced Trudeau was officially authorized “to fly a Phantom 2 Vision+ quadcopter to enhance academic community awareness and augment real estate listing videos.”

"The process for getting the FAA to give me an authorization has been very frustrating at times,” Trudeau explained. “A lot of patience, a lot of waiting. But I understand my situation is different than any other - I'm the only realtor out of 1.1 million in the United States approved for this." Trudeau’s FAA exemption expires in 2017.

Last year, an audit report warned that the FAA was “significantly behind schedule” in its attempt to meet Congress’ September 2015 deadline for integrating commercial drones into U.S. airspace. The report by the Department of Transportation’s Inspector General warned that the FAA will miss the deadline, citing unresolved technological, regulatory, and privacy issues.

A number of drone manufacturers also voiced their concern to about the FAA’s progress around commercial drones.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

Fox News Junior Reporter Aalia Shaheed and The Associated Press contributed to this report.