Big Brother in the Skies? Why This Innovative Small Business Got Shut Down by the FAA

Source: Mi6 Films Facebook Page

Russ Freeman of Mi6 Films was running a wildly successful aerial photography and video company in Hollywood, California.  That is, until the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) shut him down.

Why was he grounded?  Freeman’s company was flying “unauthorized” and unmanned drones across the sunny skies of Southern California taking aerial photographs and videos for real estate agents selling mansions, music videos, movie scenes, documentaries and car commercials.

Freeman originally flew small planes and helicopters to capture the aerial photographs, but the cost of renting aircraft became prohibitive so he turned to a much cheaper option, drone photography.

Source: Mi6 Films Facebook Page

The FAA allows hobbyists to fly radio-controlled drones in unpopulated areas below 400 feet.  The drones used by Freeman’s company are radio-controlled from the ground, have a blade wingspan of about 4 feet and are about the size of a small dog or basketball.  The difference?  Freeman was violating the FAA’s rules on flying an unmanned aircraft for commercial purposes.

It’s not just the FAA that’s crying foul.  Commercial airlines are complaining that the drones will cause havoc in the airspace potentially crashing into airplanes, unlikely considering the drones fly between 50 to 250 feet off the ground.  Meanwhile, police departments such as the LAPD are worried about the drones crashing into buildings and police helicopters.

A Police Drone

Of course, there’s always more to the story.  While Congress passed a bill through both houses ordering the FAA to integrate unmanned drones into airspace by 2015, the FAA approved 295 special permits for law enforcement, the military and researchers to use unmanned drones in the U.S.

As another opportunistic small business falls victim to government regulation, is big brother writing its latest movie script?

Read more at Bloomberg Businessweek >>

About The Author

Philip Nowak is the founder of Firmology, technology focused news and insight for small businesses and online startups. He honed his entrepreneurial chops while working for his family's Chicago-based window manufacturing business. Philip graduated from Indiana University with a BA in Economics.