News Ticker

News drone goes live for ABC7 in San Francisco

While the Federal Aviation Agency is still working on final rules for flying commercial drones in U.S. airspace, at least one TV newsroom has figured out how to legally use camera-equipped drones for news.

Last Thursday ABC7 San Francisco went live with a drone owned and operated by Las Vegas-based ArrowData, a division of Bowhead Systems, one of the first operations in the country to receive the requisite Section 333 exemption from the FAA to use drones for electronic news gathering or “aerojournalism” as the company calls it.

Their story: an aerial update on the demolition of Candlestick Park, the former home of the San Francisco 49ers.


The story was tailor-made for the current restrictions that the FAA has on using commercial drones.  The Candlestick site is close to 40 acres of empty parking lots near the edge of San Francisco Bay surrounding the all but flattened stadium. The camera-equipped drone was operated by a former B-52 pilot who keep the contraption within his line of sight. The pilot also didn’t fly the drone within 500 feet of individuals not involved in the shoot. That fact that all the workers on the demolition site also wore hard hats as a matter of course was just an added safety bonus.

“I know a lot of TV stations are talking about doing this—well, thanks to our FAA approval, we are doing it,” said Ron Futrell, director of sales and marketing for ArrowData.

ABC7, KGO-TV in San Francisco is owned by Disney’s ABC group.

While the FAA has loosened some restrictions on commercial drone use, it still requires a formal Section 333 exemption from the agency.  The FAA is still a number of months away from formulating final rules for the routine use of drones in U.S. airspace.

In May, the Newspaper Association of America (NAA) sided with the nearly two dozen members of the  News Media Coalition in opposing a number of the restrictions that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is proposing to keep on news gathering drones.

The NAA argued that the FAA should not prohibit drones from flying over people at news events as proposed by the agency in its draft rules for commercial drone use in U.S. airspace.