Due to the intense public demand to expedite integration of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) into the National Airspace System (NAS), the FAA continues efforts to develop the regulatory framework for safely integrating small UAS into routine NAS operations. This will primarily be accomplished by the small UAS (sUAS) rule, which is scheduled to be released for public comment later this year.

While these efforts continue, the FAA is also working to leverage authority granted under Section 333 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (FMRA) to establish an interim policy that bridges the gap between the current state and NAS operations as they will be once the small UAS rule is finalized. Section 333, Special Rules for Certain Unmanned Aircraft Systems, grants the FAA limited statutory flexibility to expedite requirements for the safe operation of certain aircraft systems in the NAS.

The interim policy provides a framework for authorizing safe civil operations in the NAS, including operations for air commerce. This framework will provide operators who wish to pursue safe and legal entry into the NAS a competitive advantage in the small UAS marketplace, thus discouraging illegal operations and improving safety. It is anticipated that this activity will result in significant economic benefits.

The FAA Administrator has identified this as a high priority project to address demand for civil operation of small UAS for commercial purposes. The interim policy established under Section 333 will be superseded by future regulations, such as the sUAS rule.

Specifically, Section 333 authorizes the FAA to determine:

  1. If certain unmanned aircraft systems, if any, as a result of their size, weight, speed, operational capability, proximity to airports and populated areas, and operation within visual line of sight do not create a hazard to users of the national airspace system or the public or pose a threat to national security; and
  2. Whether a certificate of waiver, certificate of authorization, or airworthiness certification under section 44704 of title 49, United States Code, is required for the operation of unmanned aircraft systems identified under paragraph (1).

The FAA is currently considering exemptions under Section 333 from several different companies. You can view the exemption requests at regulations.gov.