After the FAA's historic decision to allow delivery-by-drone sites to begin testing at the end of last year, it comes as no surprise that other industries are looking to soar to new unmanned heights. Most recently, an unlikely alliance between filmmakers and farmers to lobby the FAA to approve drones for their respective industries, and their lobbying has paid off for Hollywood. Today the FAA announced that they would consider approving exemptions from commercial drone standards for television and movie filming, pending a review of "all the associated safety issues." The MPAA has already given the seven production companies seeking exemptions their approval, so it's likely that we'll see drone-assisted photo and video very soon.
Of course, drones could do great things for Hollywood. They could re-film nature documentaries without any human interference, or film mountain ranges too treacherous for human camera crews to fly over. Perhaps the drones could even be used for shots with extras, cutting down the time that a crowd of 500 unpaid people have to stand in the LA sun. Inevitably, though, the drone privileges will be used for reality TV, since reality TV is the logical extreme of television. And when they do, it's going to be scary.
In the reality TV world, everything works in extremes: you either have a "weird addiction" or you're a member of a strict religion, your sexual status is either "16 and pregnant" or a "40-year-old virgin." Of course, this means drone-based shows will take privacy invasion to whole new levels, making Big Brother look like a scripted sit com. Imagine TV shows where the contestants think they're on a deserted island or at a private beach, only to find out they've been filmed for the past three weeks. Or a show where drones fly into clubs to find out if the Jersey Shore cast really fist pumps all the time, or if they're just sad alcoholics when the camera crew leaves. If these options sound treacherous, the real pilots will be far worse. Reality TV is probably the death of television, and drones will surely be the executioner.