CNN granted Part 107 waiver to fly small UAS over people

The FAA has granted CNN a “first-of-its-kind Part 107 waiver” that allows the media organization to fly a small UAS over people.

Considered an industry milestone, this waiver, for the first time, permits real-world UAS operations over people, giving CNN the ability to fly its 1.37-pound Snap UAS in a variety of environments, up to an altitude of 150 feet above ground level (AGL).

“We are delighted that the FAA has granted CNN a waiver that has a meaningful and practical application to our newsgathering operations,” says Greg Agvent, Senior Director of National Newsgathering Technology and CNN AIR.

“We believe that this waiver is scalable and usable across industries, and therefore represents significant progress for the commercial UAS industry as a whole.”

The Snap UAS is a product of San Leandro, California’s Vantage Robotics. The company’s CEO, Tobin Fisher, says that the UAS was created “for the purpose of safely capturing aerial video over people.”

Fisher adds that the company is “pleased that Vantage was able to work with CNN to present and establish the safety case for the Snap to the FAA.”

For more than two years, CNN and Vantage Robotics have conducted research and testing for this waiver application.

The waiver application was based on the “Reasonableness Approach.” Under the “Reasonableness Approach,” an applicant's ability to operate a UAS safely over people is determined based on “the totality of circumstances,” which includes the operator's safe history of operations, the UAS' safety features, and test data demonstrating that the UAS is safe to operate over people.

Emily Avant, Senior Counsel for CNN, says, “the Reasonableness Approach, which CNN designed and proposed to help the FAA analyze the safety of UAS flights over people, is precedent-setting and of significant importance to the commercial UAS industry.”

For the past few years, CNN has been at the forefront of trying to integrate UAS into the operations of media organizations. Back in 2015, the FAA selected CNN as one of the first three industry “Pathfinders” to develop safe uses of UAS in newsgathering, specifically in “urban populated areas.”

Last year, the FAA granted CNN the first-ever waiver to fly a small UAS over people, and recently, CNN became the first organization to be granted a Part 107 waiver by the FAA to fly a small UAS over people for “closed-set motion picture and television film.”