This section answers some frequently asked questions about the Section 333 Petition for Exemption process.


What are the main requirements needed for me to operate an unmanned aircraft or drone for my business?

A. You will need:

  1. a Section 333 grant of exemption,
  2. a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA),
  3. an aircraft registered with the FAA, and
  4. a pilot with an FAA airman certificate

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What is a petition for exemption?

A. A petition for exemption is a request to the FAA by an individual or entity asking for relief from the requirements of a current regulation.

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Do I need a Section 333 grant of exemption if I'm not charging for my services?

A. Unless you are flying only for hobby or recreational purposes, you will need FAA authorization via a Section 333 grant of exemption to fly your unmanned aircraft system (UAS) for your business. This applies even if you are only flying to supplement or aide your business and not charging fees for doing so.

For further information regarding the FAA's interpretation of ‘hobby or recreational’ flying, please see the FAA's Interpretation of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft (PDF).

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The FAA just published new rules for operating small UAS commercially. Do I still need a Section 333 exemption?

A. Yes. The Small UAS Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) was published in February 2015, and the public comment period closed in April 2015. The FAA must analyze all comments received before issuing the final small UAS rule. Until a final rule is issued, no part of this rule is in effect and current regulations continue to apply, meaning that commercial operators must petition for and receive a Section 333 grant of exemption.

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Where can I find guidance to submit a petition for exemption?

A. Guidelines for submitting a petition for exemption are available at http://aes.faa.gov/Petition/home.html. This website details the general exemption process for filing any petition for exemption, and it provides answers to frequently asked questions about the process. The FAA UAS Integration Office has also published a set of instructions specifically related to Section 333 petitions for exemptions, which can be found at:
http://www.faa.gov/uas/legislative_programs/section_333/how_to_file_a_petition/.

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If I receive a Section 333 grant of exemption, can I do whatever I want with my UAS?

A. All Section 333 grants of exemption are issued with conditions and limitations that the operator is responsible for complying with. The FAA publishes all Section 333 grants of exemption, on its UAS website:
http://www.faa.gov/uas/legislative_programs/section_333/333_authorizations/.

The operating conditions and limitations associated with each authorization are listed within the grant of exemption document.

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Is there a fee associated with the Section 333 exemption process?

A. There is no fee associated with petitioning for exemption. However, all aircraft operations conducted under a Section 333 grant of exemption must use a registered UAS, and there is a minimal fee associated with registration. Details are available at:
http://www.faa.gov/licenses_certificates/aircraft_certification/aircraft_registry/UA/.

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If I submit a petition for exemption under Section 333, is that the same as applying for a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA)?

A. The Section 333 exemption process is different from the COA process. All Section 333 grants of exemption are automatically issued with a "blanket" 400-foot nationwide COA with certain restrictions around airports, restricted airspace, and other densely populated areas. Details are available at:
http://www.faa.gov/news/updates/?newsId=82245.

An operator who wants to operate outside the parameters of the blanket COA are eligible to apply for a separate COA specific to the airspace required for their operation. Applications for these COAs must be submitted through the UAS Civil COA Portal.

COA applications MUST include:

  1. An exemption number – issued with your Section 333 grant of exemption
  2. An aircraft registration number – all aircraft must be registered with the FAA to be issued a COA

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What can I expect after submitting a Petition for Exemption under Section 333?

A. The FAA will evaluate your petition and send you its decision based on a full review of your request. An FAA grant or denial of exemption is based on the specifics of each situation. If your petition for exemption is similar enough to previous grants of exemption, it may qualify for a summary grant of exemption. Details of how the FAA is using the summary grant process to evaluate Section 333 petitions for exemption more efficiently are available at:
http://www.faa.gov/news/updates/?newsId=82485.

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I just submitted a Petition for Exemption for my UAS. How long does the process take?

A. The FAA requires a reasonable amount of time to conduct the study. Whenever possible, all efforts are made to handle proposals expeditiously. Under current regulations, a petitioner requesting a Section 333 exemption is advised to make the request 120 days prior to the date they anticipate needed it for operations. To inquire about the status of a petition for exemption, please email 333exemptions@faa.gov.

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What can I do if the FAA denies my petition for exemption?

A. You may petition the FAA to reconsider its denial of your original petition. You must submit your request to the same address as your original petition and the FAA must receive your request within 60 days after the FAA issued the denial. Details are available at: http://aes.faa.gov/Petition/faq6a.html.

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Do I need a pilot's license to petition for exemption under Section 333?

A. By law, the FAA cannot authorize an aircraft operation in the National Airspace without a certificated pilot in command of the aircraft (Title 49 of United States Code § 44711). Exemptions granted in accordance with Section 333 carry the following requirement regarding the pilot in command (PIC) of the aircraft:

Under this grant of exemption, a PIC must hold either an airline transport, commercial, private, recreational, or sport pilot certificate. The PIC must also hold a current FAA airman medical certificate or a valid U.S. driver's license issued by a state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, a territory, a possession, or the Federal government. The PIC must also meet the flight review requirements specified in 14 CFR § 61.56 in an aircraft in which the PIC is rated on his or her pilot certificate.

More information about obtaining pilot certification is available at:
http://www.faa.gov/pilots/.

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What form do I need to use for UAS Aircraft Registration?

A. The Aircraft Registration Application, AC Form 8050-1. Details are available at:
http://www.faa.gov/licenses_certificates/aircraft_certification/aircraft_registry/UA/.

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Where do I obtain an Aircraft Registration Application, AC Form 8050-1?

A. The Aircraft Registration Application, AC Form 8050-1, is not available for download. You must use an original Aircraft Registration Application, AC Form 8050-1. The FAA does not accept photocopies or computer-generated copies of this form. Aircraft Registration Applications may be obtained by:

  1. Emailing the Aircraft Registration Branch from the following link:
    http://registry.faa.gov/aircraftemail/aircraftemail.aspx
  2. Calling the Aircraft Registration Branch at:
    1. (866) 762-9434 (Toll Free Long Distance)
    2. (405) 954-3116 (International & Local Oklahoma City Area)
  3. Contacting a Flight Standards District Office in your area:
    http://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/field_offices/fsdo/

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Who is the FAA contact for the Section 333 process?

A. Further questions about the Section 333 exemption process should be directed to 333exemptions@faa.gov. Questions about operating conditions and limitations with a Section 333 exemption should be directed to 9-AFS-UAS-Inquiries@faa.gov.

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