CNN drones may soon be buzzing overhead in cities across the U.S.
Recently, the Federal Aviation Agency announced the that it is partnering with three companies to experiment with “extended line-of-sight” and out-of-sight commercial drones.
The Pathfinder program allows PrecisionHawk and BNSF Railroad to test drones that fly outside of the operator’s line of sight and, and permits CNN to operate camera-equipped drones that may eventually fly in cities.
“Integrating unmanned aircraft into our airspace is a big job, but it’s one the FAA is determined to get right,” FAA administrator Michael Huerta said, according to USA Today.
The FAA said that as part of the deal, the three companies will turn over data to the agency to help inform regulators about drone reliability, safety and problems that the agency and companies haven’t anticipated. Until now, the agency has only permitted commercial drones that operators can physically see.
The companies selected propose to use drones in very different ways. CNN hopes to fly drones in urban areas for better shots. PrecisionHawk will be testing out a crop-surveillance drone. BNSF railroad’s drone allows train operators to inspect tracks in remote areas.
CNN said that the move will change news gathering and allow the network to get better shots.
“The FAA opened up a whole new pathway where CNN and other news organisations can operate much more freely. And CNN is the guinea pig,” CNN’s associate general counsel David Vigilant said.
The new tests don’t mean that the sky will be filled with drones shooting CNN b-roll. Though the details are still unclear, the three companies will only be permitted to use the drones in specific areas and instances approved by the FAA.
The experiments comes as the FAA carefully weighs how to implement drone regulations. As the Washington Post points out, some companies have already taken their drone programs overseas to avoid regulations that bar them from testing drones that leave the operator’s line of sight.
The FAA said that the Pathfinder program is one of the steps that it takes as it reviews over 4,000 comments on its current commercial drone rules.
“We’re actively looking for other ways to expand the use of unmanned aircraft in the meantime,” Huerta said in a press conference.
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