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Hollywood and Amazon want to free the drones

Hollywood and Amazon want to free the drones

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There's a growing drone lobby in Washington, and its members are coming from all over. According to Bloomberg, movie studios have been seeing drone regulations as an important issue, as access to them could allow for aerial photography to be done with less expense. "I would say it’s a priority for all the major studios," a spokesperson for the Motion Picture Association of America tells Bloomberg. And studios are putting their money behind it. Allowing drone use for filmmaking is among the issues that the MPAA has been lobbying for across 2012 and 2013, with its overall lobbying effort reportedly totally $4.11 million.

"It’s a priority for all the major studios."The Federal Aviation Administration currently maintains a ban on commercial drone use, though that ban is currently amid an ongoing court challenge, which most recently saw a judge strike it down. The FAA is appealing that decision, but advocates hope that it'll have to go back to the drawing board, where it'll draft new regulations that allow some exceptions for appropriate commercial use.

Since unveiling its plans for Prime Air — a drone delivery service that can bring packages to your door half an hour after ordering them — Amazon has begun lobbying on drones too, according to Bloomberg. Its report doesn't say how much Amazon has spent, but it should be no surprise to see it heading into the politics of the issue: it'll need appropriate regulations if it actually wants to see Air's drones in the air.

At New York Magazine last year, Kevin Roose argued that Prime Air was effectively even a piece of the lobbying effort, given that there's no way these drones are flying any time in the immediate future. Instead, he writes that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' grand unveiling of Prime Air, which even featured a produced promotional video, should be viewed as a way to garner public support, making it harder for regulators to push a ban.

Added support has even come from a coalition of major press groups, including the Associated Press and the The New York Times Company, which have petitioned for rewritten regulations. Specific drone-advocacy groups have also been working to have those regulations changed. Bloomberg reports that the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International has spent $1.24 million on lobbying efforts since 2007. Some farming groups are apparently also in favor of drone use as a way to assist work on agriculture.

As Bloomberg notes, there are still various groups with an opposition to drones or that would like to see specific limitations on their use. One agriculture advocacy group reportedly believes that drones could put crop dusters at risk of collision, and the American Civil Liberties Union has privacy concerns surrounding their use and wants to see restrictions on how law enforcement can use them.

Given the latest turn in the trial surrounding the FAA's ban, it's currently looking like the agency may end up reworking the rules — at least, should the decision be upheld. If it does rewrite the rules, it should have to ask for public comment too, and given the current breadth of support, there would be big pressure for commercial drone regulations to get a lot looser.

Correction May 13th, 12PM: The MPAA spent $4.11 million in total on lobbying across 2012 and 2013. This article previously stated that that sum was reported to be focused on drones.