The Small UAS Rule (14 CFR part 107) is only applicable to unmanned aircraft (drones) that weigh less than 55 pounds at takeoff. Not only is there a max weight, but there's also a limitation to what rules can be waived under part 107. To fly an unmanned aircraft that exceeds the maximum weight limit or your mission includes a non-waiverable rule, you may apply for an exemption under the Special Authority for Certain Unmanned Systems, 49 U.S.C. §44807.
49 U.S.C. §44807 grants the Secretary of Transportation the authority to use a risk-based approach to determine whether an airworthiness certificate is required for a drone to operate safely in the national airspace system (NAS). Under this authority, the Secretary may grant exemptions to the applicable operating rules, aircraft requirements, and pilot requirements for a specific operation on a case-by-case basis. This grants UAS operators safe and legal entry into the NAS, thus improving safety. We anticipate 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 drones for commercial purposes.
Instructions for requesting FAA authorization
The list below contains instructions for requesting FAA authorization to operate a UAS for civil (non-governmental) purposes pursuant to 49 U.S.C. §44807 (which replaced Section 333).
- Review Public Guidance for Petitions for Exemption (PDF). This document describes what information petitioners should submit specifically to request FAA authorization to operate a UAS in the National Airspace System (NAS).
- Prepare your petition for filing. Before filing your petition, review FAA's Guidance to ensure your petition contains at a minimum the following necessary information:
- Concept of Operations
- Operations Manual
- Emergency Procedures
- Maintenance Manual
- Training Program
- Flight History (flight hours, cycles, accidents, etc.)
Note: A Safety Risk Analysis is also required for complex operations for any proposal that includes the following, but not limited to: flight over or in close proximity to people, flight beyond visual line of sight, operation of multiple UAS, operations from a moving vehicle, package delivery, part 135 operations, or high speeds. Additional information about safety risk analysis is available at FAA Order 8040.4, Safety Risk Management Policy and FAA Order 8040.6 UAS Safety Risk Management Policy.
- Verify that all the necessary information is included then file your petition for exemption on the public docket. Download submission instructions (PDF).
- Apply for a Certificates of Waiver or Authorization (COA), which serves as operational approval for the specific airspace in which you desire to fly. You must submit applications for a COA through the COA Application Processing System (CAPS), not the public docket.
COA applications must include:
- An exemption number — corresponding to the Federal Register Docket ID for your petition for exemption
- A registration number — all aircraft must be registered with FAA to be issued a COA. See Register a New sUA or other Unmanned Aircraft under Part 47.
- The same name/company name that was used on the petition for exemption
Note: FAA will issue a "blanket" COA for flights at or below 400 feet in class G airspace to all UAS operators with a Section 44807 exemption as appropriate. View a copy of this "blanket" COA (PDF), including operating conditions and limitations.
Questions about petition for exemption and COA
The Special Authority for Certain Unmanned Systems will expire September 30, 2023. For more information or questions about petition for exemption and COA application process contact the UAS Support Center.
You may also be interested in a certification, which is how FAA manages risk through safety assurance. It provides FAA confidence that a proposed product or operation will meet FAA safety expectations to protect the public. Certification affirms that FAA requirements have been met.
Learn more about certifications:
- Guidance for Petitions for Exemption (PDF) — document currently being updated
- Instructions for filing a petition for exemption on the public docket (PDF) — document currently being updated.
- Instructions on how to register a UAS over 55 lbs
- "Blanket" COA for flights below 400 feet (PDF)
- COA Application Processing System (CAPS)
- Sample Civil COA application (PDF)