WASHINGTON, D.C. – The FAA has granted five regulatory exemptions for remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) to four companies.
The four companies that received exemptions want to fly RPAs — known as Unmanned Aerial Systems by the FAA — to perform operations for aerial surveying, construction site monitoring and oil rig flare stack inspections.
“Unmanned aircraft offer a tremendous opportunity to spur innovation and economic activity by enabling many businesses to develop better products and services for their customers and the American public,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “We want to foster commercial uses of this exciting technology while taking a responsible approach to the safety of America’s airspace.”
The companies that received exemptions are Trimble Navigation Limited, VDOS Global, Clayco, and Woolpert, Inc., which was granted two exemptions. The FAA earlier granted exemptions to seven film and video production companies.
Foxx found that the RPA in the proposed operations do not need an FAA-issued certificate of airworthiness because they do not pose a threat to national airspace users or national security. Those findings are permitted under Section 333 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, he noted.
The firms also asked the FAA to grant exemptions from regulations that address general flight rules, pilot certificate requirements, manuals, maintenance and equipment mandates. In their petitions, the firms said they will operate RPA weighing less than 55 pounds and keep the RPA within line of sight at all times.
In granting the exemptions, the FAA considered the operating environments and required certain conditions and limitations to assure the safe operation of these RPA in the National Airspace System. The agency also will issue Certificates of Waiver or Authorization (COAs) that mandate flight rules and timely reports of any accident or incidents..
“The FAA’s first priority is the safety of our nation’s aviation system,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “These exemptions are a step toward integrating UAS operations safely.”
As of today, the agency has received 167 requests for exemptions from commercial entities.
Industry insiders say this is a positive step, but more needs to be done.
“We are excited to see the FAA grant these exemptions for commercial use of UAS and to begin to unlock the various benefits of this technology,” said Michael Toscano, president and CEO of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI). “Allowing UAS operations for aerial surveying, construction site monitoring and oil rig flare stack inspections will help companies to do their work more safely and efficiently.”
“While this is a positive step, granting exemptions on a case by case basis is not an effective way to regulate the use of UAS in the long term,” he continued. “The FAA needs to begin the rulemaking process and finalize a rule for the use of UAS as quickly as possible to allow UAS technology to realize its full potential and allow a wide range of industries to reap its benefits.”