The FAA has stopped processing Section 333 Exemption applications. With thousands of petitions in the queue, the FAA will make applicants that would qualify to operate under Part 107 wait until the new rule is effective in August to operate. Meanwhile, for those petitioners that will not fall under Part 107, the FAA will continue to process the Section 333 Exemption petitions.
Today, the FAA’s new rules regarding the commercial operation of small UAS (sUAS), which will be codified as 14 C.F.R. Part 107, were published in the Federal Register. The new rules will become effective on August 29, 2016.
Commercial operators that want to take advantage of the new rules, but do not currently have a Section 333 exemption will have to wait until August 29th to begin operations. Operators can start preparing for operations under Part 107 by getting any first-time pilots prepared to take the aeronautical knowledge test required for remote pilot certification. More information about the pilot certification process may be found on the FAA’s website. Entities that hold a Section 333 Exemption can continue to operate under their exemption, even after the new rules become effective.
This week, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) announced that it has granted over 1,000 Section 333 exemptions to allow commercial operations of small unmanned aircraft systems (“sUAS”). The press release is available, here.
The FAA granted the first exemptions in July 2014 for closed-set filming operations. Since April 2015, the number of Section 333 exemption grants has increased dramatically because the FAA streamlined the exemption process by issuing summary grants. More information about the summary grants can be found on our April 7, 2015, post, available here. The approved commercial purposes have also expanded dramatically and include precision agriculture, real estate photography, search and rescue operations, insurance inspections, electrical transmission and utility inspections, surface mining, construction site imaging, and more.
The FAA is already looking to move away from sUAS regulation by exemption. The agency is now working to issue final rules for commercial sUAS operations that it proposed in February 2015, available here. Additional information on the proposed rules can be found on our February 15, 2015 post, here, and about the more than 4,500 comments to the proposed rules on our May 27, 2015 post, here.
In May, the National Transportation Safety Board (“NTSB”) issued a Safety Alert, “See and Be Seen: Your Life Depends on It; Maintaining Separation from Other Aircraft,” urging pilots to constantly and vigilantly scan the skies for traffic throughout every flight, and clearly indicate their intentions at all times. The Safety Alert was promulgated in light of incidents involving aircraft narrowly avoiding collision in cruise flight during ideal daytime meteorological conditions that were later found to be related to distractions in the cockpit.
On April 24, 2015, the comment period for the Federal Aviation Administration’s (“FAA”) Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) regarding the operation and certification of small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) closed with over 4,500 comments. The comments came from a wide range of interested stakeholders, including federal and state agencies (e.g., National Transportation Safety Board (“NTSB”), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the New York City Department of Transportation), sUAS manufacturers and operators, traditional aviation stakeholders (e.g., Boeing and Airports Council International), labor unions, educational institutions, various industries and companies (e.g., Amazon, Commonwealth Edison Company, Motion Picture Association of America, Nuclear Energy Institute, and Travelers Insurance), press and media groups, privacy groups, hobbyists, and individuals.
The FAA is reviewing the public comments and has not announced an expected completion date. The FAA’s review will likely span a significant portion of the remainder of 2015. If the FAA makes substantive changes to the proposed rules before making the rules final, the FAA must publish a supplemental NPRM and offer another opportunity for comment. As the rulemaking process continues, interested entities or persons may continue to submit comments, but the FAA is not obligated to consider them.
To date, the FAA has limited Section 333 exemptions for commercial operations of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to daytime hours. The FAA’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) proposes rules that limit small UAS (sUAS) commercial operations to daytime hours. But, the NPRM recognizes that certain conditions and mitigation may be appropriate for the FAA to allow nighttime operations. As manufacturers continue to develop technologies that will address the FAA’s concerns about nighttime operations, operators and manufacturers should take the opportunity to submit comments and demonstrate to the FAA that sufficient nighttime conditions can be as safe as daytime operations and provide substantial safety benefits to many industries.
On February 15, 2015, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) proposed rules for the commercial operation of small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) weighing less than 55 pounds—a long-awaited step towards integrating commercial UAS flights such as precision agriculture, surveying, real estate photography, and utility and infrastructure inspections (e.g., electrical wires, pipelines, and bridges) into U.S. airspace. But the proposed rules leave prohibited other desired commercial uses (e.g., package delivery, spray operations and nighttime flights) and unanswered key safety, privacy, security, liability, and spectrum questions. Comments to the FAA’s rules are due April 24, 2015 and all affected parties, including businesses and industries hoping to use any-sized UAS, should take advantage of this opportunity to offer their views, concerns, and suggestions to shape the incipient regulatory framework for UAS.