FAA Formally Announces Changes to UAS Exemptions

1060_drone_with_big_camera FAA Formally Announces Changes to UAS ExemptionsThe Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has announced its ‘summary grant’ process for issuing Section 333 exemption approvals for commercial unmanned aerial system (UAS) operations.

Under the new process, the FAA says, the agency is speeding up exemption approvals for many commercial UAS operators. Although the FAA still reviews each Section 333 petition individually, the agency can issue a summary grant when it finds it has already granted a previous exemption that is similar to the new request.

The FAA says this an example of how the agency is using a flexible regulatory approach to accommodate this rapidly evolving technology.

It says its experience in reviewing the Section 333 petitions shows they generally fall into two categories: film/television production and aerial data collection. Most exemptions in these categories will likely be handled through the summary grant process. For unique requests, the agency will still publish the petition in the Federal Register for public comment and will conduct a detailed analysis.

The FAA has also officially announced the two other changes it made to the Section 333 exemption process. As with the summary grants, the FAA has been implementing these changes to recent exemptions but, until now, did not acknowledge the changes in an announcement.

It now allows operations under these exemptions by people who hold a recreational or sport pilot certificate. Previously, Section 333 operators were required to have at least a private pilot certificate. The newly added certificates are easier to obtain and, therefore, less costly than a private pilot certificate.

In a statement, Les Door, spokesperson for the FAA, notes that although Section 333 exemptions require only the preceding certificates, “Other UAS operations may need at least a private pilot's license depending on the parameters of the proposed operation.”

Additionally, a third-class medical certificate is no longer required. Now, a Section 333 operator only needs a valid driver license to satisfy the medical requirement. This change is consistent with the agency’s approach for sport pilot certificate holders, who may fly light sport aircraft with a driver license and no FAA medical certificate.

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