Two San Fernando Valley aerial photography companies were among six that received approval on Thursday from the Federal Aviation Administration to use drones for film and television production.
Pictorvision Inc., in Van Nuys, and Astraeus Aerial, in Encino, filed in May for a first time ever exemption with the FAA to use unmanned aircraft in U.S. airspace on movie and television sets.
Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx determined the aircraft the companies would use pose no threat to national airspace users and would not require an FAA-issued certificate of airworthiness, a lengthy process typically required of makers of new full-sized aircraft.
“Today’s announcement is a significant milestone in broadening commercial UAS (unmanned aircraft systems) use while ensuring we maintain our world-class safety record in all forms of flight,” Foxx said in a prepared statement.
The FAA has been working the past two years on rules that would allow commercial use of unmanned aircraft. The agency has a Sept. 30, 2015, deadline to fully integrate drones of all sizes into the national airspace.
In June, the agency gave approval for the first commercial use of a drone when BP Exploration Inc. in Alaska had a Puma AE fly over the Prudhoe Bay oilfield. The plane was made by AeroVironment Inc., a Monrovia company, as its Simi Valley plant.
In their exemption petitions, Pictorvision and Astraeus Aerial said they would operate only small drones weighing no more than 55 pounds, fly the aircraft within the line of sight of a pilot or observer, and operate no higher than 400 feet in altitude.
Pictorvision President Tom Hallman said the unmanned aircraft would not replace manned aerial cinematography, but augment it.
"This gives us a new tool to use between zero and 400 feet above ground level, whereas manned helicopters are typically limited to flying no lower than 500 feet," Hallman said.
Attempts to reach a representative of Astraeus Aerial were not successful.
The other aerial photography or video production companies receiving exemptions were RC Pro Production Consulting, in Huntington Beach; Aerial Mob LLC, in San Diego; Snaproll Media LLC, in Nashville; and HeliVideo Productions LLC, in Austin, Texas;
The Motion Picture Association of America, the Washington, D.C. advocacy group for the entertainment industry, supported the companies in their exemption requests.