FAA Says Hollywood Can Film With Drones

The movie industry is the first commercial operation outside of Alaska to earn approval for drone operations.

The FAA will announce today that it will conditionally allow drones on movie sets, a drone industry lobbyist confirmed.

The seven production companies that applied for exemptions to the agency's commercial drone ban will become the first to earn approval for such operations, outside of far-flung drilling operations in Alaska and the Arctic Circle.

The FAA has repeatedly emphasized its considerations for the first drone allowances would favor "controlled, low risk situations," and the requests submitted through the Motion Picture Association of America took care to emphasize the closed-off nature of movie sets and operation by trained professionals.

Here's a look at the kind of footage a camera-toting drone can produce:

Early reports say drones' use will only be allowed on closed sets under control of a three-person team.

It's the first step toward opening up a drone industry that's projected to be worth just shy of $100 billion over the next decade. But the limited scope of the exemption still leaves unanswered how the FAA will rule on less secluded operations, such as agriculture monitoring, real estate photography, and much-hyped package delivery plans.

Congress has set a deadline of 2015 for the FAA to finalize nationwide commercial drone guidelines, but a scathing government audit earlier this year said the agency was well behind schedule and unlikely to meet that date.

It's unclear if the FAA will set guidelines for the size of drones that will presumably need to carry large, high-quality cameras for film operations. An FAA spokesman said only to "stay tuned."