The Future of Drones in Film Making

You’re probably sick of hearing about drones by now – but do you know where they came from and why you’re hearing so much about them lately? Drones – or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have been used in military operations stemming back to the late 1800s. Only lately have they been available (and affordable enough) for civilian use. 

Its flight is controlled either autonomously by onboard computers or by the remote control of a pilot on the ground or in another vehicle. Drones have been used by civilians and cinematographers to film sports events, create aerial real estate tours, record weddings, prisoners, marine conservations, monitor animal agriculture and more. But before UAVs can take off as a marketing tool, the Federal Aviation Administration needs to consider rules for commercial users.

An interview with our President and Founder Steven J. Levy was recently featured in an article by The Tampa Tribune regarding the current FAA regulations. You can read the full story here.

The FAA Rules Are in Flux

“The rules for commercial unmanned aircraft systems operation are clear,” Ian Gregor, a spokesman for the FAA, said in a written statement. “Anyone who wants to fly an aircraft — manned or unmanned — in U.S. airspace needs some level of authorization from the FAA.”

But the enforcement of these rules doesn’t apply equally to all UAV operators.  The FAA has been clear that drones used by hobbyists, and flown below 400 feet, are just fine as long as the drones don’t violate privacy or safety. Commercial users on the other hand, below 400 feet or not, can face hefty fines

The FAA is now accepting applications for exemption from their regulations, and applications are pouring in.  In its guidelines for seeking exemptions, the FAA requires certified aircraft, a licensed pilot and operating approval. 

We’re Working On It.

Habana's Drone Division has filed an exemption application to become the first in Hillsborough to get FAA approval to use a drone and a film commission permit to do so. The FAA grants exemptions from its drone ban on a case-by-case basis, but they’ve been slow in processing or awarding so far.

We are not hobbyists but professionally trained. We do not need the exemption to use the drones, but if the FAA granted us one it would show that we are in a class above the rest,
— Steven J. Levy, Habana President and Founder

Habana uses an FAA-certified pilot and team on set whenever a drone is used. The company owns 12 drones weighing 5 to 17 pounds each that are used on productions around the world including "The Blacklist". They are all currently flying and operating within the law. 


Changing the world of film

Drones provide something that helicopters can’t: proximity flying. There are places where it’s safer to fly a UAV than a helicopter. A drone can stay with a vehicle motorcyclist, skateboarder – whomever. It’s already changing the way humans experience all kinds of life and cinematography.

We’ve never been able to stay with a subject without cutting [footage]. Drone photography is going to become a tool that’s expected as a part of every shoot, and we’re happy to represent some of the most talented professionals in the industry as they blend their aerial experience with their creative talents,
— Steven J. Levy