On May 6, the FAA announced the UAS Focus Area Pathfinders initiative, a partnership with industry to explore the next steps in unmanned aircraft operations beyond the type of operations the agency proposed in the draft small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) rule it published in February.

Three companies reached out to the FAA to work on research to continue expanding use of UAS in the nation's airspace in three areas of focus:

  • Visual line-of-sight operations in urban areas
    CNN will look at how UAS might be safely used for newsgathering in populated areas.
  • Extended visual line-of-sight operations in rural areas
    PrecisionHawk will explore how UAS flights outside the pilot's direct vision might allow greater UAS use for crop monitoring in precision agriculture operations.
  • Beyond visual line-of-sight in rural/isolated areas
    BNSF Railway will explore command-and-control challenges of using UAS to inspect rail system infrastructure.

If your company or organization is interested in pursuing similar UAS research in one of the above Focus Areas, there are a number of options available:

Contact a UAS Test Site
Explore Experimental Type Certification
Petition for a Section 333 Exemption (specific, limited, low risk operations only)

The FAA will publish updates and progress on the Pathfinder Focus Areas on this webpage. Please subscribe to our website to ensure you stay up-to-date.