Commercial exemption process further streamlined by FAA

By Patrick C. Miller | April 16, 2015

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration is working to streamline its UAS efforts through blanket efforts and summary grants. Last week, it granted 30 new Section 333 commercial exemptions that included online retail giant Amazon and also announced that it is further streamlining the exemption process for unmanned aerial systems (UAS).

The agency said that while it will continue to review each Section 333 petition, it will now issue a summary grant when there’s a previous exemption similar to the new request. The FAA said it is using “a flexible regulatory approach to accommodate this rapidly evolving technology.”

“Summary grants are far more efficient because they don’t need to repeat the analysis performed for the original exemption on which they are based,” according to the FAA. “Summary grants are a tool the FAA can use in all exemption areas, not just UAS.”

The agency expects the new approach to speed up exemption approvals for many commercial UAS operators. Section 333 is part of the 2012 FAA reauthorization law which enables the Secretary of Transportation to determine if certain low-risk UAS operations can be authorized prior to finalizing the small UAS proposed rule published last February.

The FAA said experience in reviewing the Section 333 petitions shows they generally fall into the categories of film and television production along with aerial data collection.

“Most exemptions in these categories will likely be handled through the summary grant process,” the agency said. “For unique requests, the agency will still publish the petition in the Federal Register for public comment and will conduct a detailed analysis.The Amazon exemption gives it permission to conduct aerial data collection, as well as outdoor testing research and development for its Prime Air UAS delivery system. The company’s goal is to use UAS to deliver packages in 30 minutes or less.

“We’re pleased the FAA has granted our petition for this stage of R&D experimentation, and we look forward to working with the agency for permission to deliver Prime Air service to customers in the United States safely and soon,” said Paul Misener, Amazon’s vice president for global public policy.

The FAA exemption limits operations to daytime with an Amazon manufactured multi-rotor sUAS. The flight speed cannot exceed 87 knots, the UAS can’t be flown above 400 feet and it must remain within visual line of sight.


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