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GUEST POST: UAS FAA Exemptions Breakdown

By Luke Geiver | February 26, 2015

Note: The following is from Emily Aasand, staff writer with UAS Magazine. Aasand is currently researching and developing an infographic compilation detailing the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s unmanned aircraft systems exemptions.

After pillaging through hundreds of U.S. Federal Aviation Administration Section 333 UAS exemption requests, FAA and U.S. Department of Transportation exemption decisions along with company appeals, it’s easy to see how, or more so why, it has taken the FAA so long to administer UAS exemptions to the now more than 400 companies who have filed for one.

On Sunday, I began the process of delving through FAA issued UAS exemptions to gather data for our upcoming Q2 issue of UAS Magazine. Since Sunday, I have had to update my list of exemptions three times, which shows the constant evolution of this industry.

The first UAS exemptions were granted by the FAA in September 2014 to six companies looking to use unmanned vehicles for closed-set filming purposes, and since then, we’ve seen an increasing trend in the number of exemptions as the months progressed with February seeing the most UAS exemptions with 16 granted to date.

Another trend I’ve noticed and found interesting since tracking these, was how diverse the exempt UAS operations have become. The first exemptions were predictable in being designated to aerial filming and photography—which still leads the pack with 11 exemptions—but one of the most recent was granted for monitoring electric transmission lines.

As of today, there have been 31 companies who have received exemptions, 17 UAS operations exemptions (think: roof inspections, closed-set filming, aerial photography), and roughly 35 different UAS platforms that have received the go-ahead from the FAA. Of those 35 platforms, 26 were rotor craft (picture: DJI phantoms, Aeryon SkyRangers), while the other 9 were fixed wing aircrafts (picture: Trimble UX5, senseFly’s ebees).

With the FAA releasing its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking a few weeks ago, it’ll be interesting to see how quickly and frequently the FAA will start granting UAS exemptions. Our team is certainly excited to be covering it. Look for our team-coverage of the topic in our Q2 issue.

-Emily Aasand