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Waivers and Authorizations Supporting Emergency UAS Operations

How is the FAA helping emergency UAS operations more quickly get approved to fly?

UAS operations are an increasingly important tool for first responders and other entities responding to natural disasters and other emergency situations. In some cases, UAS operators who need to fly response missions, which provide crucial benefits to the public good and address exigent circumstances, may need to secure waivers or authorizations from the FAA more quickly than practicable through normal processes. Examples of these response missions, which may qualify for expedited support through the FAA's Special Governmental Interest (SGI) process, are outlined below:

  • Firefighting
  • Search and Rescue
  • Law Enforcement
  • Utility or Other Critical Infrastructure Restoration
  • Incident Awareness and Analysis
  • Damage Assessments Supporting Disaster Recovery Related Insurance Claims
  • Media Coverage Providing Crucial Information to the Public

Through its SGI process, the FAA may expedite the issuance to qualifying UAS operations of: 1) addendums to pre-existing Certificates of Waiver or Authorization (COA); or 2) waivers and authorizations to Part 107 operators.

What sort of waivers and authorizations are available through the SGI process?

The FAA may rapidly approve through its SGI process COA addendums and Part 107 authorizations and waivers UAS operations that:

  • Fly in airspace (including controlled airspace and disaster Temporary Flight Restrictions) and/or at altitudes not otherwise permitted
  • Fly Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS)
  • Fly at night

How do you request FAA assistance with approvals through the SGI process?

  1. You must already be an existing Part 107 Remote Pilot with a current certificate OR you must have an existing Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA). The FAA will not grant emergency approval for casual or recreational drone pilots.
  2. Fill out the Emergency Operation Request Form (MS Word) and send to the FAA's System Operations Support Center (SOSC) at
  3. If the proposed UAS flight is to be conducted within a disaster Temporary Flight Restriction, the FAA's SOSC, as appropriate, may need to pre-coordinate the requested operation with a responsible Incident Commander or Unified Command (IC/UC) to ensure their activity will support or, at a minimum, not interfere with broader response and recover efforts.

The FAA will then coordinate with the effected Air Traffic facilities to:

  1. Review your proposed operation and determine whether it meets the necessary criteria for emergency approval.
  2. Implement any necessary mitigations to minimize impact on other air traffic operations.
  3. Contact you within one hour or sooner regarding the status of your request or to request additional information.

If approved, the FAA will add an amendment to your existing COA or Remote Pilot Certificate that authorizes you to fly under certain conditions for the specified operation.

If denied, operators should NOT fly outside the provisions of their existing COA or part 107. Operators have the option to amend their requests.

* This process is called the Special Government Interest (SGI) amendment process and is outlined in FAA Order JO 7200.23A.

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