CNN gets the first FAA waiver to fly drones over crowds

After two years of research, the news org can use a single, safe UAV model above people.

The FAA finally passed a set of rules for commercial drone aviators back in August 2016, which included a formal restriction from flying over crowds of people. Given how valuable aerial footage from UAVs is, that's been a difficult regulation for news outlets to stomach. But today, the agency granted CNN the first waiver to these rules, allowing it to fly its drones over people.

But they can't just fly any drone over crowds. The waiver applies only to a specific micro-vehicle, the 1.37-pound Snap UAS, which is 'deformable' with enclosed rotors. In other words, should it suddenly drop out of the sky, it will do less damage to people than standard drones, as The Verge demonstrates in this video of a staffer headbutting the UAV safely.

By CNN's account, the waiver wasn't easy to get, requiring two years of research by the news organization and the Snap drone's creator Vantage Robotics. The FAA had selected CNN in 2015 as one of the first three "Pathfinders" in the new industry to test out drone use, which required plenty of flying and pilot certification to prove that maneuvering over crowds wouldn't endanger them.