Commercial Filming Use of UAS (Drones)

City of Seattle UAS for Film Production: Conditions for Use (PDF)

The flying of UAS (Unmanned Aircraft Systems), also referred to as drones, for commercial purposes is regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) throughout the United States. Therefore, the flight of UAS for commercial purposes must be in compliance with current FAA regulations.

The City of Seattle considers UAS use for filming purposes (including feature films, short films, television or web series, television commercials, student films, etc.) as UAS use for commercial filming purposes. 

The FAA mandates that operators of UAS for commercial purposes are required to verify all other permits, exceptions, or permissions needed for your specific use.



Seattle Permissions for Commercial UAS Use

Operating a UAS from City property for the purpose of commercial filming is not allowed unless it is permitted with the Seattle Master Film Permit.  Each location where a UAS will be used requires individual location permission, which is included in the Master Film Permit issued for the overall production pursuant to the City of Seattle UAS for Film Production: Conditions for Use.

When a Master Film Permit is Required for Commercial UAS Use

  • UAS take-off or landing from public City of Seattle property
  • Traffic or pedestrian control is required as part of the UAS flight or any other portion of the filming activity to avoid operation over people

City of Seattle Commercial UAS Film Production Conditions for Use
As FAA rules, exemptions, and licensing for commercial UAS use continues to evolve, the City of Seattle strives to grant permissions for commercial filming that align with the most current FAA policies.  Currently, commercial filming with UAS must fall under the small UAS rule (16 CFR Part 107) for UAS weighing 55 lbs. or less, and Section 333 Exemption for UAS weighing more than 55 lbs.

Included in the City of Seattle UAS for Film Production: Conditions for Use are the following items that production companies need to ensure are transmitted during the Master Film Permit application process:

  • Ten Days in Advance of Filming:  Master Film Permit Application and Location Form request must be submitted, including general information about UAS use
  • Five Days in Advance of Filming:  A copy of the operator's Remote Pilot Certificate, Section 333 Waiver, Part 107 Compliance documentation, and any other waivers, licenses, or permissions granted by FAA for pilot and operator UAS use
  • Five Days in Advance of Filming:  A "Description of Activities" must be submitted and must include:
    • A detailed plan/diagram of the UAS flight plan
    • A detailed plan/diagram of areas closed/restricted to the general public
    • Description of the dates and times of operation
    • A plan for operation including operator location(s)         
  • Five Days in Advance of Filming:  $2M UAS/drone aviation liability insurance (operator)
  • Three Days in Advance of Filming:  $1M general liability coverage (production company)
  • Three Days in Advance of Filming:  Proof of notification to neighbors as directed by the Office of Film + Music

Production Company Responsibility
When considering UAS for your film production, understand that it is the production company's responsibility to:  

  • Verify that the UAS operator you engage is authorized by the FAA and any applicable state law to operate UAS for your commercial filming use
  • Verify that such authorization is for the purpose for which you engage the UAS operator. This is an important detail because while operators may be authorized to operate commercial UAS for motion picture, television and new media filming, still photography and "aerial cinematography," there are specific restrictions on that FAA authorization (e.g. no operation over people, operation only during the daytime, operator must keep the UAS in sight during operations (visual line of site)).

UAS Operator Responsibility
The UAS Operator is responsible for providing information to the City of Seattle Office of Film + Music as part of the Seattle Master Film Permit application process showing FAA regulations are being met.  All items required are in the City of Seattle UAS for Film Production: Conditions for Use, including:

  • A copy of the operator's Remote Pilot Certificate, Section 333 Waiver, Part 107 Compliance documentation, and any other waivers, licenses, or permissions granted by FAA for pilot and operator UAS use
  • Description of Activities (DOA)
  • Map/Diagram of the flight plan over areas closed to the general public
  • $2M UAS/Drone Aviation Liability Coverage

Restrictions for Drone Operation in the City of Seattle
At this time, drone use is conditionally:

  • Allowed over Seattle right of way (streets, sidewalks, City owned buildings)
  • Allowed over waterways
  • Not allowed at Seattle Parks property
  • All commercial UAS use is subject to the City's laws of general applicability, such as Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) 12A.06.050 which states that a "person is guilty of reckless endangerment when he recklessly engages in conduct which creates a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury to another person."

Local Drone Operators
As the FAA regulations continue to evolve,  at a fast rate, it's difficult for the Office of Film + Music to keep a current list of all local authorized drone operators. Therefore, if you're looking for a specific drone operator, you can check their 333 exemption and 107 status by visiting the FAA's website directly, or the Northwest Production Index Aerial Coordinators/Pilots and Aircraft & Aerial Equipment resources pages.  

Hobbyist Drone Use
Hobbyist drone use can operate in Seattle without a Section 333 or Section 107 authorization, provided the user comply with the FAA guidance for hobbyist operators.   

All hobbyist drone use is subject to the City's laws of general applicability, such as Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) 12A.06.050 which states that a "person is guilty of reckless endangerment when he recklessly engages in conduct which creates a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury to another person."