Recognizing the 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 the 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," provides flexibility for authorizing safe civil operations in the NAS by granting the Secretary of Transportation the authority to determine whether airworthiness certification is required for a UAS to operate in the NAS. Specifically, Section 333 authorizes the Secretary 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).

This framework will provide operators who wish to pursue safe and legal entry into the NAS a competitive advantage in the UAS marketplace, thus discouraging illegal operations and improving safety. It is anticipated that this activity will result in significant economic benefits, and the FAA Administrator has identified this as a high priority project to address demand for civil operation of UAS for commercial purposes.

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

View the Astraeus Aerial Grant of Exemption (PDF). View the Summary Grants of Exemption to six other companies:

View the Grants of Exemption announced December 10, 2014:

If you think your operation may qualify under the provisions of Section 333 and are considering submitting a petition, view the details for filing a petition for exemption.