FAA Continues to Grant Drone Exemptions for Commercial Use On a Limited Basis

The FAA continues its slow march of testing the waters with unmanned aircraft sustems (UAS/Drones). On February 2,2015, the FAA granted eight more regulatory exemptions for commercial use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) operations, bringing the total number of exemption grants to 24.

Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx found that the UAS in the proposed operations do not need an FAA-issued certificate of airworthiness because they do not pose a threat to national airspace users or national security. Section 333 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 permits those findings.

In granting the exemptions, the FAA considered the planned operating environments and required certain conditions and limitations to assure the safe operation of these UAS in the National Airspace System.

Currently, the FAA is allowing exceptions only when there are both a pilot and observer. The pilot must have at least an FAA Private Pilot certificate and a current medical certificate, and the UAS must remain within line of sight at all times.

This system of piecemeal approval will soon have to give way to a larger, more efficient system. One of the largest manufacturers of drones, SZ DJI Technology Co. had about $40 million in sales in the U.S. in 2013. This would place sales units at 30,000 to 80,000 for 2013 and it expects to double that in 2015.