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Summary:

Drones can film from interesting vantage points that were previously impossible, but a recent trend of flying them directly into fireworks displays might break local rules.

Drone fireworks
photo: Jos Stiglingh

A gorgeous video of fireworks making the rounds on the internet has an unusual twist: It was shot by a drone from within the fireworks, giving a totally new view on the Fourth of July staple.

But the Federal Aviation Administration is looking into whether it is against federal regulations to fly unmanned aerial vehicles into a field of exploding fireworks, Forbes reports. Reporter Gregory McNeal wrote last week that the Coast Guard and local governments sometimes establish “safe zones” around firework launch areas, prohibiting unauthorized people and objects from entering. Drones would likely be labeled as objects.

The FAA told McNeal today that it is “looking into multiple incidents in which unmanned aircraft flew into fireworks displays to determine if there was any violation of federal regulations or airspace restrictions.” While the viral video above was posted in May, many more drone videos appeared online after last week’s July 4th fireworks.

Whether the FAA has authority over drone flights away from airports is actually up in the air. But it has banned commercial drone use until it comes up with a set of rules for their operation. Flying them as a hobbyist is legal, which makes the fireworks investigation unusual — it’s also unclear why the FAA wants to step in rather than leave the case to the Coast Guard or local police forces.

Congress charged the FAA with writing drone rules by September 2015, but a recent government audit found that might be an impossible deadline to meet. In the meantime, the agency is watching over six test sites and legalizing their use for select companies like BP.

  1. “Up in the air…” Har.

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