Drone technology making its mark in entertainment

By Emma Sandler

(Kenneth K. Lam/Baltimore Sun/MCT)
(Kenneth K. Lam/Baltimore Sun/MCT)

The commercial use of drones is set to change American skies forever.

The Federal Aviation Administration announced six major filmmaking companies would be allowed to use camera-equipped drones on certain movie and television sets on Sept. 25. Prior to this announcement, the FAA only allowed the use of drones to the Alaskan wilderness, but drones will now legally be able to fly over populated areas in the United States.

Other entertainment companies, like Disney and Cirque du Soleil, have vested interests in using drones. Disney applied for three patents for the use of drones related to outdoor park shows. The drones would be used for carrying marionette-versions of Disney characters, or as lit-up substitutes for fireworks, as well as for carrying large aerial projection screens. Cirque du Soleil released a video on Sept. 22 that showcased a man interacting with 10 “quadcopters” in a flying dance performance. The video stated, “No CGI was used or needed.”

The lack of computer-generated-imaging is a boom to the entertainment industry, especially Hollywood, as unmanned cameras will be able to provide more sweeping and breathtaking footage and hopefully reinvigorate the domestic box office.

The FAA’s new decision marks a turn of tide for the use of drones, as commercial drones will move beyond the realm of possibilities and into physical reality. It was announced last year that Amazon was testing out the use of drones to deliver Amazon products to customers within 30 minutes of purchase. Amazon submitted its application to the FAA on July 9, 2014. In the letter Amazon promised, “One day, seeing Amazon Prime Air will be as normal as seeing mail trucks on the road today,” and this statement will be true for many industries.

The FAA has at least 40 other applications pending in addition to Amazon’s. Google has been testing “self flying vehicles” in the Australian outback as part of a project known as Project Loon, which according to Wired Magazine, “seeks to provide Internet access to the hinterlands through high-altitude balloons.”

Mark Zuckerberg from Facebook has a similar ambition to beam Internet connection to people with limited access.

In March 2014, Zuckerberg revealed a Facebook Connectivity Lab that includes, “many of the world’s leading experts in aerospace and communications technology,” as outlined on his Facebook page. Researchers include NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, NASA’s Ames Research Center and the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, as well as British company Ascenta, which helped create the world’s longest solar-powered unmanned aircraft. Both Google and Facebook seek to benefit by providing Internet access to hard-to-reach places, as both companies are vested in expanding the presence of the Internet in order for the company itself to expand.

Drones will potentially have a large impact on photography and sports videography as well because the unmanned flying aircraft will be able to photograph hard-to-reach areas and give audiences a fresh perspective. Videos on YouTube show how drones can be used beyond dramatic aerial footage, but also for developing game strategy and analyzing athlete performance.

In Europe, the German logistics company DHL is marked to begin using drones to deliver supplies to the people of the island of Juist. It is the first time that a company has been authorized to use drones on a regular basis in Europe, according to the New York Times.

Drone usage is here to stay. If these tech dynasties get their way we will soon be seeing drones as integral to our everyday lives. Entertainment, exploration, Internet access and even our mail may soon be getting a lift into the future with new drones.

Emma Sandler can be reached at [email protected]