closed-set filming

Commercial Drone Law for Film & TV Production

Note: The FAA just recently changed (3/7/2016) some of the language on their exemptions so this presentation is about 95% accurate.

Are you interested in using commercial drones in TV/movie production?  This video is specifically geared to the TV/movie production industry.

You’ll learn:

  • How do people or companies commercially operate drones?
  • Why do I need a Section 333 Exemption?
  • What are some of the restrictions in a Section 333 Exemption?
  • Myths that put production companies at risk.
  • Common myths surrounding the Section 333 exemptions.
  • Things you can NOT do under a Section 333 exemption and your Blanket COA.
  • Curent federal enforcement from the FAA and other agencies as well as state and local law enforcement.
  • Tips on vetting drone companies to making sure they are in complaince with what the FAA says.
  • The FAA’s future proposed commercial drone rules.
  • Operations that will NOT be allowed under the future proposed commercial drone rules.

Aviation Insurance is a must for anyone that hires, leases or operates a drone for commercial use. Contact the HUB International to learn more about how aviation insurance can protect you.


About HUB

As a Top 10 insurance broker in the world, HUB International is a trusted provider of personal, commercial and health insurance services. HUB Entertainment specializes in providing insurance solutions to film, TV & internet production companies, touring artists & bands, concert promoters, live event producers, theatrical productions and video game publishers and developers.  Please visit us at to get a quote for aviation insurance if you are using a drone in your business.


Participating individuals, non-participating individuals, and the 500ft bubble.


This area is causing all sorts of confusion for individuals. How close can you get to people? When can I get within 500ft of a person? Can I fly at a concert or football game? Can I fly over people?

Here is a quote from the exemption from one of my closed-set 333 clients.

26. All Flight operations must be conducted at least 500 feet from all nonparticipating persons, vessels, vehicles, and structures unless:
a. Barriers or structures are present that sufficiently protect nonparticipating persons from the UA and/or debris in the event of an accident. The operator must ensure that nonparticipating persons remain under such protection. If a situation arises where nonparticipating persons leave such protection and are within 500 feet of the UA, flight operations must cease immediately in a manner ensuring the safety of nonparticipating persons; and
b. The owner/controller of any vessels, vehicles or structures has granted permission for operating closer to those objects and the PIC has made a safety assessment of the risk of operating closer to those objects and determined that it does not present an undue hazard.
The PIC, VO, operator trainees or essential persons are not considered nonparticipating persons under this exemption.

The exemption does not indicate if this is a slant angle 500ft bubble or a  500ft ground circle. Functionally, there isn’t much of a difference here. If you look at the graph I created, at 200 ft (the max height for a blanket COA), the closest ground distance would be 458.3 ft. There is a 41.7 foot difference in interpretation. The two different interpretations only start mattering once you can start operating above the blanket COA.

The 500ft bubble is a pretty big bubble. Here is a graph of a 500ft slant angle bubble.

graph of 500 foot bubble in 333 exemption


This bubble is going to prevent many urban and “in town” operations; however, later in the exemption’s conditions and limitations only applicable to operations for the purpose of closed-set motion picture and television filming and production, it says:

31. Flight operations may be conducted closer than 500 feet from participating persons consenting to be involved and necessary for the filming production, as specified in the exemption holder’s MPTOM.

Mere aerial data collection operations do NOT have these conditions. Closed-set acts like an “upgraded” version of aerial data collection.

So then who is a participating individual?

The FAA defines Participating Person/Authorized Person as,  “All persons associated with the filming production must be briefed on the potential risk of the proposed flight operation(s) and they must acknowledge and accept those risks. Nonparticipating persons are the public, spectators, media, etc., not associated with the filming production.” (Emphasis mine).

The only way you are going to get within 500ft is if the people are participating people, you are cleared for closed-set operations, and you are abiding by your motion picture manual.