Understanding FAA Section 333

In late May 2014, the Federal Aviation Administration began accepting petitions for exemption to operate unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) commercially in the U.S. National Airspace System without an airworthiness certificate, which is allowed under Section 333 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. The agency approved the first set of commercial operators on Sept. 25, 2014 — six film and television production companies.

In the first year accepting exemption requests, the FAA approved over 1,000 petitions. The agency continues to approve about 50 new operations a week, a process expedited by the FAA rolling out a summary grant process where similar petitions are batched and analyzed together rather than individually. However, the number of applicants continues to greatly outpace approvals.

The flood of commercial exemption requests to the FAA shows that a mature UAS commercial market is waiting to be unleashed. Given the technology’s potential, it is important that the FAA finalize small UAS rules as quickly as possible. Moreover, Congress needs to pass — and the president needs to sign into law — an FAA reauthorization measure before the current authorization expires on Sept. 30, 2015.

Equally as important, government and industry need to work together to permit expanded uses of UAS technology that pose no additional risk to the airspace system. For example, whether within the context of the rule, through the FAA reauthorization measure or by other means, we need to allow for beyond-visual-line-of-sight, nighttime operations and operations over heavily populated areas. Otherwise we risk stunting a still-nascent industry and restricting the many beneficial uses of this technology.

Despite the commercial UAS industry being in its infancy, companies across the U.S. are involved with manufacturing and operations, and the positive effects of finalized rules for airspace integration will be felt across the country.

To download a PDF copy of the full report, “Profile of the first 1,000 FAA 333 Waivers,” click here.

For more information, read this article from Government Technology’s State page: Florida No. 2 in Nation for Number of Drone Pilots ‘Certificates’ Granted.