FAA streamlines drone flight authorization

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) this week established an interim policy to speed up the authorizations for operators who have obtained Section 333 exemptions to fly commercial unmanned aircraft (UAS).

The new policy is meant to bridge the gap between the FAA's past process of evaluating every UAS flight individually and its final version of the small UAS rule, which is still being considered. 

Under the interim policy, the FAA will grant UAS operators with the exemptions a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) for flights that are at or below 200 feet involving aircraft that are less than 55 pounds. Flights must operate during daytime Visual Flight Rules conditions and within a visual line of sight of the pilots.

The UAS also must stay within 5 nautical miles of an airport that has an operational control tower; within 3 nautical miles if the airport has a published instrument flight procedure but no operational tower; or within 2 nautical miles from an airport without an operational tower or published instrument flight procedure.

The 200-foot ceiling applies to flights anywhere in the country, but limits flights in restricted airspace such as major cities.

Previously, operators applied to receive a COA in a particular block of airspace. The process could take as long as 60 days. 

Operators wishing to fly outside the parameters need to obtain a separate COA for that airspace.

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U.S. Federal Aviation Administration

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