back to article You know what today's movies need? More drones

The US aviation authority is considering whether it should hand over permits for film and TV firms to use drones to take aerial photo and video shots. Seven photo and production companies, backed by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) have asked the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for regulatory exemptions …

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  1. James 51 Silver badge

    Wouldn't you need to come up with the audio track seperately (unless your drone has whisper mode of course)?

    The power lines application sounds good but what happens if it crashes into said lines? Plus the time they would be most useful would be when lines go down e.g. during storms. Might that be that useful.

    1. Rob

      Sound is already captured separately so this wouldn't affect them at all. The only time it becomes a problem is for journo's doing news pieces where they tend to record sound on camera rather than separately, it just means they have to record sound to camera and dub it over later which just adds a bit to turn around time for quick news items.

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Currently, most power distribution lines are checked by helicopter. This done to find potential problems such as missing insulators (in the woods, hunters like to shoot at them), towers and lines have trees growing in them, etc. Much of the distribution network runs in remote locations.

    3. Don Jefe

      Line checks aren't done directly overhead of the lines. The observation helicopter or small plane is off to one side and slightly above the lines so they can identify tension problems that you can't see when looking straight down. From above they look like electric rail tracks and don't tell you much beyond a line is broken, and most of the time somebody knows it when the power goes out :) Prevention is the goal, not so much finding things that already broke.

      Point being, it's unlikely a drone in the process of crashing would move fast enough laterally to hit the lines before gravity forced it below the lines. Not impossible, but unlikely.

      Energy in the lines is a factor, but if a civilian drone did hit the lines and manage to bridge the gap without being destroyed simply by hitting the lines it would probably just burn up. But big lines on pylons are a lot bigger than they look and fairly drone proof. They'll catch and hold small manned aircraft if some ancient Assyrian god is sufficiently wroth with the pilot and so drones would likely just be pulverized.

      Regardless of what actually occurred, it would be great fun to watch it happen!

    4. Annihilator

      "Wouldn't you need to come up with the audio track seperately (unless your drone has whisper mode of course)?"

      I suspect they're just looking for a cheaper option than "hiring a helicopter" which already suffers the same problem, I doubt they're looking to replace tripods.

      Besides, there's no sound worth capturing at altitude anyway - just wind.

  2. a_milan

    Aren't most movies cpu-driven nowadays anyway?

  3. Longrod_von_Hugendong

    The only thing that needs more drones...

    is a set of bagpipes.

    1. Darryl

      Re: The only thing that needs more drones...

      Also another application where a separate audio track would come in handy...

      1. Intractable Potsherd

        Re: The only thing that needs more drones...

        Darryl, I think that every time I hear a cat-strangler - which is fairly often living in Scotland!

  4. theModge

    Know who else wants to use cameras on drones?

    The German railways, to stop graffiti on the trains. They'd like to do this at night. Which is amusing, because they only have a license to fly the things during the day.

    Also, it helps British industry, in so much as I know of at least one British "Cameras-on-drones" start up.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    rollocks

    Citizens want to use drones for receational use and films things they've never been able to do... NO CEASE ACTIVITY + FINES. Business want to use drones, yes sure, where's my cut? Govts needs a good kicking.

    1. P. Lee Silver badge

      Re: rollocks

      Not quite so cut and dried I'd hope.

      Apply for a license to use them in one particular way and in a particular area - that should be available to all.

      The difference is that business is likely to save money using them and is therefore less likely to abuse the privilege.

      I'd settle for a double-license system: you need both a licensed operator (personal responsibility) and you need a "scope (purpose, time & geography) of use" (personal/corporate responsibility) license in order to fly.

    2. silent_count

      PUBLIC interest

      Coming soon, to a FAA office near you..

      M Bay: But dude! Transformers 27 will make hundreds of millions.

      FAA: Sorry sir. You don't seem to understand. Your drone flying activity has to be in the *public* interest.

      M Bay: Hundreds of millions, if not billions.

      FAA: Public interest, sir.

      M Bay: OK. Fine. I'll kick in a few mil for the next FAA Christmas party.

      FAA: Ahhh. Public interest.

  6. SuperTim

    Permits...

    Do Americans need them for everything? I just assumed that when America was the "land of the free", it meant you could do stuff...but everything seems to need a permit...

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: Permits...

      Once people are no longer allowed to take the law into their own hands, you can't let people be truly "free" in the way you suggest, because it is too easy to dodge responsibility for one's actions.

      Or do you really believe that many drone owners wouldn't just leg it if they lost control and the last thing they saw was it veering towards the big glass window on someone's house or a playground full of kids?

      1. Don Jefe

        Re: Permits...

        Damn right they'll leg it out of there. You can watch it happen in person at public R/C flying fields. Someone with zero experience goes and buys a sub-$300 RTF nitro airplane and the first thing they do is crash it into somebody, a structure or a car. They bail out impressively fast.

        You are supposed to put your contact info inside the plane so people can find you to either try and get compensated for damages to their bay window, or just to be nice a return the model to you for salvage. It's certainly the responsible thing to do, put it's quite shocking how little responsibility is required to have surplus money to buy a place/drone.

        For all their sophisticated onboard systems, even military drones are just R/C planes. They will crash at some point and sooner or later a drone mishap is going to lead to a tragic situation. Military drones fail all the time and those are actively maintained. Not crashing would be ideal, but for the military the expenses can just be absorbed. But profit driven operations will never be able to justify 20%+ annual of the aircraft price in maintenance.

        1. DougS Silver badge

          Parachutes

          Drones ought to be required to have in their design that if they lose radio contact with the controller or suffer any sort of mechanical failure that the engine is shut off, a parachute deployed, and it falls gently to the ground causing no damage.

          Well, little damage - if it drops on an expressway it might cause a bit of trouble...

          1. stu 4

            Re: Parachutes

            Parachutes have their own set of issues, but the latest APM controller does support them.

            Most modern quadcopters (they ain't drones however times the press keep calling them drones*) have a failsafe mode. Typically it will autoland, or fly home and land the aircraft if the failsafe is triggered due to tx reception failure.

            In the case of a mechanical failure in a quad - it's coming down anyway as it can't fly with 3 props. hex and up can fly with one dead prop, and will indeed enter a fail safe mode in this situation.

            For most situations, this is safer and preferably to an attempted parachute deployment.

            In fact mine did this very thing last week - due to pilot error, I had reveresed the controls, shooting it off at 40mph away from me rather than towards me. By the time I realised, it had reached the edge of tx reception (don't ask - had changed some things around... should have tested more, etc). The end result was that at around 2km, the quadcopter slowed down and entered a hover, waited to see if tx reception was returned. when it was not, if flew itself home and landed at my feet.

            Quad/Hex/Octo footage is used very regularly in UK, on UK tv and films (where a licence called BNUC can be obtained). For example, top gear makes use of loads of aerial footage. So this is nothing new - it's simply that the USA will soon allow film companies to do it too.

            *DRONE: flies itself autonomously. With the exception of a few waypoint modes on a handful of controllers, multi-rotor RC aircraft are simply computer assisted RC aircraft. And in fact, any controller which DOES have an autonomous capability (e.g. APM) is also compatible with fixed wing aircraft... and yet for some reason 'drone' = multirotor thanks to the press.....

            1. DougS Silver badge

              Re: Parachutes

              When it "flies home", does it follow the exact same path it took to get to that point, or go directly? What about obstacles or areas it shouldn't fly over, or a low flying helicopter? Or running out of fuel if it takes the same path?

              That sounds like a good idea in theory, but I'm not so sure it is that ideal of a solution in practice.

              1. Stu

                Re: Parachutes

                Can't speak for all the flight controllers, but the DJI Naza controllers stop in the sky, wait a bit for a re-connection before entering failsafe, then fly upwards a bit to 'attempt' to avoid obstacles, then in a straight line back to the initial point of GPS lock acquisition, then slowly descend, checking it's altimeter to see if it can land safely. It can't tell whether it'll fly laterally into an obstacle though.

                Only trouble is that there's a chance you can run out of battery power as it returns, as it can take a good minute or two to complete the manoeuvre, and my hexacopter only averages around 12 mins flight time due to it's general weight - put a bigger battery on and you've offset the extra flight time in extra weight.

                You can take it back out of failsafe though before it attempts to land as it flies back into radio range.

                I'm actually quite intrigued by the idea of a parachute! I'm looking into it.

    2. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Permits...

      The biggest reason America became "unfree" and "permit only" was because millions of morons kept abusing the privilege.

      This old Saturday Night Live skit explains it.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I feel the need...

    the need for a control uplink, a big LCD monitor, and a can of pringles.

    Top Gun 2014; It's... just not the same.

  8. Chris G Silver badge

    A shame

    The National Enquirer TV program is not still going.

    They could have used drones for so much the public has a right to know about...... like aliens raiding our dustbins or Tom Cruise eating kittens.

    An excellent idea for power line surveys but wouldn't hunters take potshots at drones too?

  9. Arachnoid

    Insurance

    Provided adequate insurance was in place and they are not flying in restricted space,likely to cause a danger i.e.high pedestrian areas or used to spy on individual people or cause harassment then I dont see an issue with anybody flying them.

    If anything the insurance companys would automatically restrict usage much like they do for young drivers.

  10. DougS Silver badge

    Better than the helicopters they're using today

    Safer, quieter, and use less fuel/emit less CO2.

  11. Scott 1

    I hope they're successful

    There are a lot of potential uses in Civil Engineering circles. Structural inspections, aerial mapping and photography, watershed studies, geologic hazard investigations, environmental investigations, etc. etc. If these film guys make some headway, maybe that'll open some doors for us, too.

  12. Ardbeg
    Mushroom

    So next Terminator flick is going to have some nice first person (drone?) shots then. Just dont give them internet access though...

  13. ecofeco Silver badge

    I don't understand this

    R/C camera 'copters have been around for decades.

    What's the problem?

    1. No, I will not fix your computer

      Re: I don't understand this

      Before, the early ones were expensive bits of kit costing several thousand, but over the last years they have dropped substantially, my DIY quad with GoPro was less than £500 all in and is much better than those first quads, now you can pick up a quad with camera for barely £45 (my cheapest quad was less than £20 and massive fun).

      It's like cars, when only a few had them, licences were not considered, once available to the masses it was deemed required.

  14. imanidiot Silver badge

    As long as the cowboys are kept out

    I'm all for allowing commercial use of drones/quads/cameraplanes. I just seriously hope some knowledge of airmanship and airspace regulations is required of the pilot before a license is obtained. (I've made more elaborate posts about this in the past). There's too many cowboys out there just screwing about because they feel like it, completely ignoring any safety rules deemed "well, dûh" in the "regular" aviation world.

  15. The Grump
    Facepalm

    You know what today's movies need? MORE DRONES

    Woah... I was going to say "more cowbells". But more drones works, too.

    Seriously, what are they going to do - have Ah-nold Schwartzen... whatever, fight the bad guy while standing on a drone ? They can simply add the drone(s) in post production, just like the tie fighters.

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