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The FAA Is Finally Letting Drones Fly Over Crowds

October 18, 2017

And, frankly, it’s about damn time. If you’ve been following the swift progress being made in using drones for commercial applications like delivery, you’ll have noticed few of the trials ever take place in the U.S. Iceland, Switzerland, Britain, Australia, Rwanda, Tanzania? Sure. But America, not so much.

Now, though, Bloomberg reports that CNN has received the first FAA waiver to let it perform unlimited drone flights over people. David Vigilante, senior vice president of legal for CNN, tells Bloomberg that it “signifies a critical step forward not only for CNN’s [unmanned aerial system] operations, but also the commercial UAS industry at large.”

That’s because while the FAA’s chief has admitted that the government needs to move fast in order to help the nascent industry grow, the agency has done little to push things forward so far. Rules introduced in 2016 made it easier for drone operators to make low-risk, low-altitude flights, but waivers are still required for flying over crowds, at night, and even out of an operator's line of sight.

The FAA is worried, predominantly, about collisions and crashes. But sensing, drone flight control, and crash safety are all improving, which only serves to make American authorities look like even greater laggards. The news from CNN, though, provides some hope that this could change—at some point, at least.

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