CNN Gets Drone Waiver for Crowds

CNN is droning on, but in a good way.

The news network said it has gotten the government OK to fly a drone over large crowds of people outdoors, which could come in handy in any future debates with the government over just how big some crowds are.

According to the network, the Federal Aviation Administration has given it a first-of-its-kind waiver to "to operate the Snap UAS, a frangible, 1.37-pound aircraft with enclosed rotors that is made of deformable material, over people."

Related: Drones a ‘New Opportunity’ for Broadcasters

CNN said it will be able, for the first time, to fly an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) over open-air assemblies, up to 150 feet above ground level.

“This waiver signifies a critical step forward not only for CNN’s UAS operations, but also the commercial UAS industry at large,” said David Vigilante, senior VP of legal for CNN, in a statement.

CNN said its waiver request was the product of more than two years of research and testing in conjunction with Vantage Robotics, which developed the Snap "flying camera," and that the waiver was granted in part based on the network's history of safe operations and test data showing the camera was safe to fly over crowds on the ground.

Related: White House Unveils Drone-Boosting Plan

CNN already obtained waivers to fly a smaller craft over people and one for using UAS on closed sets for TV and film.

In August 2016, CNN launched a dedicated drone unit to provide aerial shots for all networks and platforms.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.