UAS Commercial Exemption Trends

As the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration rapidly increases its UAS commercial exemption approval list, several takeaways and trends are emerging. We have provided a breakdown of the exemption list thus far, along with other important points.
By Luke Geiver | April 09, 2015

Through March 2015, the highest number of U.S. Federal Aviation Administration unmanned aircraft systems section 333 commercial exemptions ever given in a single month was 30. Through three days in April, the FAA has already given out 30 new UAS section 333 exemptions. The total is now roughly 100—meaning that at any given time, 100-plus UAV platforms could be flying somewhere in the U.S. surveying, capturing mapping data or providing a new view needed to better understand old problems.

Based on the recent trends in FAA UAS exemptions, we could someday look back to April 3 as the starting point for major growth in the commercial use of UAS in the national airspace. The newly adopted blanket process for granting 333 exemptions is expediting the process and allowing more UAS-focused firms to gain the approval needed to perform commercial operations. And, as data collected and organized by Staff Writer Emily Aasand shows below, there are real numbers to show that real progress is being made.

The FAA has provided exemptions to companies or specific operations since last year as follows:

September: 6

October: 1

November: 0

December: 5

January: 7

February: 19

March: 30

April (As of April 3): 30


To date, the following applications have been associated with exemptions:

  1. Aerial Filming (26)
  2. Aerial Photography (18)
  3. Construction (7)
  4. Aerial Surveying (12)
  5. Agriculture (19)
  6. Inspections (20)
  7. Oil & Gas (8)
  8. Power Transmissions (12)
  9. Law Enforcement and Search & Rescue (1)
  10. Research & Development (6)
  11. Mining (4)
  12. Sporting Events (1)
  13. Patrolling (4)
  14. Wildlife & Forestry (2)


Of the 144 exempt UAV platforms, 108 have been multirotors, 32 have been fixed wing and the remaining four have been rotorcraft.