Using Drones in Film Production? New Rules Apply

The following includes the latest information on the use of UAS (drones), including the most recent list of FAA-exempted UAS operators.
In order for a production to be considered for a permit involving a UAS, the following documentation is required:

1. Proof that the production is using a UAS operator that has received an FAA exemption, preferably a copy of the operator’s Certificate of Authorization (COA).

See below for the current list of aerial production companies allowed to operate UAS for filming in the United States.  This list is subject to change.

NOTE: UAS operators had originally been required to apply for and receive a COA for each particular block of airspace (location), but the FAA has recently streamlined their process, and now exempted operators are being granted Blanket COAs for flights at or below 200 feet, as long as they’re not flying in the vicinity of airports or in other restricted airspace.


2. A copy of the operator’s written Plan of Activities (POA).


3. Proof of insurance coverage as follows:


Evidence of coverage for the use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) must be provided by the UAS operators (only those granted FAA exemptions).
Each UAS operating entity must submit proof of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)insurance with a limit of at least $2,000,000. The certificate of insurance must include a separate policy endorsement showing proof of UAS coverage. A second (separate) endorsement must be submitted naming the State of California, its officers, agents and employees as Additional Insured. NOTE: Each of these two endorsements require a separate attachment to the certificate of insurance.


  • Please be advised that at this time, CALTRANS is not issuing any encroachment permits for UAS filming (on Caltrans properties) until an official Caltrans policy is drafted and approved.
  • State Parks is evaluating requests for the use of UAS on a case-by-case basis.
  • Other state agency partners may have their own requirements regarding the use of UAS on their properties.  Please check with all relevant agencies or with the CFC beforesubmitting your permit applications.
  • UAS operators must have all pertinent documentation on set with them at all times.  This includes their Certificate of Authorization (COA), Plan of Activities (POA), pilot certificate and third-class medical certificate.
  • The use of a UAS is permitted only when all qualifications have been met, all necessary approvals have been obtained, and use of a UAS is noted on the production’s permit.  If a production is found to be operating a UAS without the proper permit, an FAA Administrator, Fire Safety Officer or law enforcement official may immediately suspend the UAS activities and/or the production may be subject to a fine.
  • The use of a UAS as a PROP is subject to the same regulations as those used for filming.
  • The FAA does not regulate the use of UAS indoors (their jurisdiction covers U.S. airspace, not under the roofs of private structures). Be advised that approval for the use of UAS in a stage or building may fall under the authority of other jurisdictions. Also note that whether it’s exterior or interior filming, the CFC will not approve permits when UAS are involved, unless they are flown by FAA-exempted operators.
  • The City of Los Angeles is currently working on a local ordinance regarding the use of UAS, and the LAPD is developing their own municipal code pertaining to the use of UAS.

The following are aerial production companies granted FAA exemptions to operate unmanned aircraft systems (drones) for commercial filming. As more companies are applying for exemptions each day, some may be grated exemptions that do not yet appear on this list. Therefore, if you would like to retain a UAS operator not listed below, please check with the CFC, so we may verify the company’s exemption status.


AERIAL MOB, LLC619-787-0600

Location: San Diego,CA

Contact: Tony Carmean


PICTORVISION, INC.818-785-9282

Location: Van Nuys, CA

Contact: Matt Curran

ASTRAEUS AERIAL310-907-9205, ext.703

Location: Van Nuys, CA

Contact: Hal Winer



Location: Franklin, TN

Contact: Preston Ryon


Location: Santa Monica, CA

Contact: Haik Gazarian


Location: Van Nuy, CA

Contact: Kevin LaRosa, Jr.

HeliVideo PRODUCTIONS, LLC512-917-0201

Location: Austin,TX

Contact: Eric Austin

VORTEX AERIAL (RC Pro Production Consulting)714-916-3614

Location: Corona, CA

Contact: Chris Schuster


Location: Minneapolis/St. Paul, Metro Area, MN

Contacts: Jillian Nodland/Craig Peterschmidt


The following are 15 of the most pertinent TERMS & CONDITIONS (to those on-set) required of (FAA-exempted) UAS operators.
  1. The UAS must weigh less than 55 pounds, including energy     source(s) and equipment.
  2. The UAS may not be flown at a speed exceeding a ground speed of 50 knots.
  3. Flights must be operated at an altitude of no more than 400 feet above ground level (AGL).
  4. The UAS must be operated within visual line of sight (VLOS) of the pilot in command at all times.
  5. All operations must utilize a visual observer (VO).
  6. The pilot must possess at least a private pilot certificate and at least a current third-class medical certificate.
  7. The UAS may not be operated directly over any person, except authorized and consenting production personnel, below an altitude that is hazardous to persons or property on the surface in the event of a UAS failure or emergency.
  8. Regarding the distance from participating persons, the operator’s manual has safety mitigations for authorized and consenting production personnel.  At all times, those persons must be essential to the closed-set film operations.  Because these procedures are specific to participating persons, no further Flight Standards District Office or Aviation Safety Inspector approval is necessary for reductions to the distances specified in the petitioner’s manuals.
  9. Regarding distance from non-participating persons, the operator must ensure that no persons are allowed within 500 feet of the area except those consenting to be involved and necessary for the filming production. This provision may be reduced to no less than 200 feet if it would not adversely affect safety and the FAA Administrator has approved it. For example, an equivalent level of safety may be determined by an aviation safety inspector’s evaluation of the filming production area to note terrain features, obstructions, buildings, safety barriers, etc. Such barriers may protect non-participating persons (observers, the public, news media, etc.) from debris in the event of an accident.
  10. The operator must obtain an Air Traffic Organization issued Certificate of Waiver or Authorization prior to conducting any operations under this grant of exemption.  This Certificate of Authorization will also require the operator to request a Notice to Airman not more than 72 hours in advance, but not less than 48 hours prior to the operation.
  11. At least three days before scheduled filming, the operator of the UAS affected by this exemption must submit a written Plan of Activities to the local Flight Standards District Office with jurisdiction over the area of proposed filming. The 3-day notification may be waived with the concurrence of the Flight Standards District Office. The plan of activities must include at least the following:
  • Dates and times for all flights.
  • Name and phone number of the operator for the UAS filming production conducted under this grant of exemption.
  • Name and phone number of the person responsible for the on-scene operation of the UAS.
  • Make, model and serial or N-number of UAS to be used
  • Name and certificate number of UAS pilots involved in the filming production event.
  • A statement that the operator has obtained permission from property owners and/or local officials to conduct the filming production event; the list of those who gave permission must be made available to the inspector upon request.
  • Signature of exemption-holder or representative.
  • A description of the flight activity, including maps or diagrams of any area, city, town, county and/or state over which filming will be conducted and the altitudes essential to accomplish the operation.

12. UAS operations may not be conducted at night.


13. The UAS cannot be operated by the pilot from any moving device or



14. The UAS may not operate in Class B, C, or D airspace

without written approval from the FAA. The UAS may not operate within 5 nautical miles of the geographic center of a non-towered airport as denoted on a current FAA-published aeronautical chart unless a letter of agreement with that airport’s management is obtained, and the operation is conducted in accordance with a Notice to Airman as required by the operator’s Certificate of Authorization. The letter of agreement with the airport management must be made available to the Administrator upon request.


15. The documents required under 14 CFR § 91.9 and § 91.203 must be
available to the pilot at the ground control station of the UAS any time the aircraft is operating. These documents must be made available to the Administrator or any law enforcement official upon request.
For a full list of Terms & Conditions and to view the FAA’s exemption grants, go to:
For more information on the FAA and UAS, go to:

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