FAA issues blanket approval for commercial drone use under 200ft for Section 333 holders

Great news from the FAA, and part of an encouraging trend towards a much more progressive regulatory process in the US:

The Federal Aviation Administration has established an interim policy to speed up airspace authorizations for certain commercial unmanned aircraft (UAS) operators who obtain Section 333 exemptions. The new policy helps bridge the gap between the past process, which evaluated every UAS operation individually, and future operations after we publish a final version of the proposed small UAS rule.

Under the new policy, the FAA will grant a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) for flights at or below 200 feet to any UAS operator with a Section 333 exemption for aircraft that weigh less than 55 pounds, operate during daytime Visual Flight Rules (VFR) conditions, operate within visual line of sight (VLOS) of the pilots, and stay certain distances away from airports or heliports:

  • 5 nautical miles (NM) from an airport having an operational control tower; or
  • 3 NM from an airport with a published instrument flight procedure, but not an operational tower; or
  • 2 NM from an airport without a published instrument flight procedure or an operational tower; or
  • 2  NM from a heliport with a published instrument flight procedure

The “blanket” 200-foot COA allows flights anywhere in the country except restricted airspace and other areas, such as major cities, where the FAA prohibits UAS operations. Previously, an operator had to apply for and receive a COA for a particular block of airspace, a process that can take 60 days. The agency expects the new policy will allow companies and individuals who want to use UAS within these limitations to start flying much more quickly than before.

Section 333 exemption holders will automatically receive a “blanket” 200 foot COA. For new exemption holders, the FAA will issue a COA at the time the exemption is approved. Anyone who wants to fly outside the blanket parameters must obtain a separate COA specific to the airspace required for that operation.

Views: 1278

Comment by Rob_Lefebvre on March 24, 2015 at 1:19pm

Things seem to be moving along quickly now!  Great news.

Hopefully they soon move to do something such as automatic 333 approval for any commercial entity operating a system <2kg, <200 feet, and not over the heads of the public, roadways, etc.  That would make a lot of sense.

Comment by Gary McCray on March 24, 2015 at 5:27pm

Could somebody stick in a link to the requirements and procedures necessary to get a section 333 exemption please?

Comment by Bill English on March 24, 2015 at 5:38pm
Comment by Gary McCray on March 24, 2015 at 7:01pm

This definitely seems to open a potentially very interesting door.

The wording of 333 indicates that a COA will be required for any specific operation and that it "potentially" requires adherence to or specific exemption granted from a number of additional regulations (Pilots license for instance).

https://www.faa.gov/uas/legislative_programs/section_333/how_to_fil...

But the blanket exemption provided above seems to not require the additional compliance and conditions necessary to get a COA (or I am reading it wrong).

The 333 exemption still requires a statement / set of conditions (accepted by the FAA) as to pre-flight procedures and additional requisites to get the 333 exemption, but it is no where near as onerous as the apparent requirements for a COA. 

However, the FAA has not published detailed or comprehensive requirements for a 333 exemption.

And seems like it is basically up to however they might happen feel about it whether or not to grant a 333 exemption on a case by case basis.

If anybody has a different read on this, please speak up here.

Best regards,

Gary

Comment by technicus acityone on March 24, 2015 at 10:31pm

Moderator
Comment by Gary Mortimer on March 25, 2015 at 2:13am

I love that 333 is half the number of the beast

Comment by Laser Developer on March 25, 2015 at 4:34am

Psst... wana buy a 200 foot laser altimeter? SF10/C

Comment by F1P on March 25, 2015 at 9:40am
Comment by Shawn Barney on March 27, 2015 at 5:03am

It is great how things have turned around this past month or so. I am sure many start-ups will love this news. Sound like to me they want to see the Agra-business go. I also think the farmers are behind this whole turn around. politics as usual.

Comment by Brian Leroux on April 8, 2015 at 7:23am
Does anyone know where I can find a list of all airports and heliports? It would need to contain airport coordinates as well as information on having operation control tower and published instrument flight procedure. What I would like to do is publish and map to support this new approval based on the information provided in this blanket approval.

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