FAA Takes the Next Giant Step!!

Today, the FAA granted its second batch of Section 333 Exemptions.  This finally puts to rest the notion that the Exemption process is not a real process, or that somehow, only companies with power and prestige like Hollywood film makers are going to be allowed to operate.

The five exemptions granted cover operations for aerial surveying, construction site monitoring and oil rig flare stack inspections.  The Petitioners were Trimble Navigation Limited, VDOS Global, LLC, Clayco, Inc. and Woolpert, Inc. (which received two exemptions).  The exemptions granted to these companies follow the same general template used by the FAA for the exemptions previously granted to the film makers, and contains a finding that there is no need for “an FAA-issued certificate of airworthiness because [the UAS] does not pose a threat to national airspace users or national security.”

As expected, these exemptions contain the same types of flight restrictions that the FAA has previously imposed, such as line-of-sight operation, and require an additional Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COAs) that will specify any rules necessary for safe flight at the specific locations of the work.  It should be noted that all of the Exemptions require the pilot-in-command to have a private pilot’s license, with the exception of Woolpert, Inc., which made a commitment in its petitions to use commercial pilots.

These Petitions for Exemption were filed between June 3, 2014 and July 24, 2014.  While the FAA did not meet its 120 day processing goal with these exemptions, the UAS Integration Office has a substantially larger staff now than it did earlier in the year.  In addition, now that the Integration Office has worked through the safety cases for each of these industry sectors, it is expected that the processing of similar petitions by other companies will proceed within the 120-day timeline.

As of today, the agency has received 167 requests for exemptions from commercial entities.  Now that the first petitions have been granted, that number is only expected to grow.  As a result, the longer you wait to file for permission to fly, the longer it will take to receive approval.

(Originally posted December 10, 2014)

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