Commercial Filming Use of UAS (Drones)

When is a City of Seattle Film Permit Required for UAS Operations?

  • The UAS is taking off or landing on City-owned property (streets, sidewalks, and parks)
  • The UAS is flying over City-owned property, and requiring control (holding vehicle or pedestrian traffic)  

When is a City of Seattle Film Permit NOT Required for UAS Operations?

  • When the drone is taking off and landing on private property, and is flying exclusively over private property
  • Drone flights taking place solely over waterways, and not taking off or landing on City of Seattle property

Why Do I Need a Need a City of Seattle Film Permit for UAS Operations?

  • FAA Section 107 regulations state: "You can't fly a small UAS over anyone who is not directly participating in the operation, not under a covered structure, or not inside a covered stationary vehicle. No operations from a moving vehicle are allowed unless you are flying over a sparsely populated area."
  • While the City of Seattle does not have any control over airspace, the above rule has direct impacts to public property because it will require you to hold pedestrian or vehicle traffic in order to legally and safely fly your UAS.
  • UAS operators are required to discuss this regulation with the production before submitting their application and creating their Description of Activities. This is so productions can plan for extra staffing for pedestrian holds, or extra cost that may be associated with hiring police to hold vehicle traffic.

Please see below for instructions regarding the responsibilites of all parties involved during the drone permitting process.

Hiring a Drone Operator:
When finding an operator, please verify that they are registered with and authorized by the FAA and any applicable state laws to operate UAS for your commercial filming.

Operator Registration:
Once a production has hired a UAS operator:

  • Put the UAS operator in direct contact with the Seattle Film Office.
  • If the operator has not previously worked with the city the Film Office will gather required insurance and registration document, or verify that the credentials they have previously submitted to the Film Office are still valid.
  • Plan ahead! If the UAS operator has not worked with the Film Office previously, this process can take more than 5 business days.

Shoot Planning:

  • The location manager must consult with the UAS operator while planning the shoot:
  • The operators should be able to advise on required street closures, when traffic or pedestrian holds are necessary, when a filming location is in restricted air space, or if you are up against any FAA regulations that may conflict with your plan.
  • The operator will be required to submit a "Description of Activities" (DOA) for each shoot location, which you will need to upload with the film permit application. The DOA must be completed by the operator, NOT the location manager / applicant.
  • Each shoot location requested in the film permit application must have a street closure map that correlates to the flight path shown in the operator's DOA.  This map must show street closure locations, and all anticipated SPD Officer and/or PA/crew locations for vehicle and pedestrian holds.

Application Submission:
Submit a Film Permit Application per the normal means at: The drone operator should not be involved in the completion and submittal of the actual the permit application. All applications must be submitted in a complete manner, a minimum of 5 days in advance. Please pay attention to the following steps when filling out your application some are different from a standard film permit application:

  • Select "Filming with a Drone" as your shoot type, and fill out subsequent information
  • Upload insurance documents for the production company only. Aviation insurance is collected from the operator directly and verified in their communications with the Film Office.
  • Provide a copy of your notification letter to the Film Office to have on file with your application. Notifications must be distributed a minimum of three days in advance to affected neighbors and businesses.

Initial Operator Registration with the City of Seattle Film Office (One Time Occurrence)
Once the below documents are provided to the City of Seattle Film Office, an operator will not be required to submit this information to the Film Office again until one or more of them expire. All listed documents are required.

  • A copy of the operators Remote Pilot Certificate, Part 107 Compliance Documentation, and any other waivers, licenses, or permissions granted by the FAA for pilot and operator UAS use
  • A copy of the UAS Certificate of Registration for any crafts that will be used for productions
  • Proof of $2M UAS/Drone Aviation Liability Coverage in the form of:
    • Certificate of Insurance
      • This document is typically issued by your insurance broker, AND
    • Additional Insured Policy Endorsement
      • This document is directly from your insurance carrier, although your broker should be able to obtain it from you.

Operator's Responsibility per Permitted Shoot (Must be Submitted for Each Shoot)
The UAS operator is not responsible for filling out the film permit application for any shoot - this is solely the responsibility of the location manager. However, you must work closely with the location manger to plan the shoot in a way that meets all FAA Section 107 requirements - this includes educating location managers on FAA rules and regulations including restricted airspace, night operations, flying over non-participants, and any control that may need to be exercised during filming.

For each shoot, the drone operator must prepare a Description of Activities (DOA) for each shoot location, and share it with the location manager to submit with their application. The operator must prepare the DOA themselves, not the location manager. The DOA must be completed a minimum of 5 days in advance of the shoot date, and must be submitted with the application the location manager submits to the Film Office. The DOA must include the following information:

  • A detailed map of the UAS flight plan notating:
    • Point of takeoff, exact flight path, and landing point
    • Areas that need to be closed, controlled, or restricted to the general public
    • Description of the dates and times of operation, including duration of each flight, and details on how the flight meets the standards set forth by the FAA        
  • Please see our website for an example DOA

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 Washington Filmworks Production Directory to find locals for hire.

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."

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

All 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."

Please consult the City of Seattle UAS for Film Production: Conditions for Use for more details.