Home News Law & Policy FAA lowers barriers to low-altitude drone operations

FAA lowers barriers to low-altitude drone operations

Low flying UAS. Courtesy: TrimbleUS: The Federal Aviation Administration has dropped most of the filing requirements for low-altitude unmanned flights, dramatically reducing the per-mission paperwork for commercial drone operators holding special waivers.

Though current flight rules make for-profit drone flights illegal, 53 companies have been granted waivers under the FAA’s Section 333 programme. The new policy will free these firms from obtaining COAs for any daylight operation within the United States using an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) weighing less than 55 pounds, as long as it goes no higher than 200 feet and operates within certain other limits. Specifically, the pilot must operate using daytime Visual Flight Rules (VFR) and keep the UAS within his or her visual line of sight. UAS, which are more commonly called drones, must stay two to five miles from airports and heliports.

All current holders of section 333 waivers will automatically be granted this type of blanket COA. Other companies will get the same latitude once their waivers are granted. Those wishing to operate outside of the blanket-COA limits can still go through the regular COA process. It should be noted that these waivers do not relieve firms of the requirement to get a Certificate of Authorisation or COA for each distinct mission.

In the meantime, the number of section 333 waiver requests has reached 690, according to an FAA spokesman. As the wait for COA approval stretches well beyond the target turnaround of 60 days, some operators looking to test new aircraft and applications are going overseas to avoid the lengthy process.

Source: Inside unmanned systems