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FAA Doles Out Dozens More Section 333 Exemptions

BY Alan Perlman
8 April 2015

By: Jason Reagan


After corporate giants State Farm and Amazon made headlines last week by acquiring commercial drone use exemption from the FAA, a bumper crop of waivers have blossomed in the agency’s bureaucratic garden over the past week. Over the past week, the FAA granted more than a dozen Section 333 exemptions across a wide swathe of specific industries.

Section 333 “provides operators who wish to pursue safe and legal entry into the [National Air Space] a competitive advantage in the UAS marketplace, thus discouraging illegal operations and improving safety,” according to the FAA. The exemption is so far only available to industries covering precision agriculture, film making, power line and pipeline inspections and oil and gas flare stack inspections.

Exemptions issued this past week include:

San Diego Gas and Electric Company received permission to inspect power grids via UAV and is limited to the InstantEye Mk-2 Gen2 weighing less than 55 pounds including payload. Southern Electric Company and Utility Aerial Services both garnered an exemption for utility inspection as well.

Phoenix Air UNMANNED may well have been granted the broadest authority in the number of exemption uses. The FAA granted the UAV firm permission to conduct: “flare stack inspection; utility-power generation system inspections and patrolling; pipeline inspection and patrolling; filmmaking, cinematography, and videography; precision agriculture; wildlife and forestry monitoring; aerial surveying; construction site inspection and monitoring, and public entity support operations.”

Aerial filming and surveying companies made out well in the latest round of exemptions. Aerius Flight, LLC and MicroCopter Professional Services, Inc. were granted filming privileges while Aeryon Labs, Inc. received an exemption for both filming, mapping and market research.

Montico may have won the most intriguing exemption: “Tower inspections and mapping operations to an existing tower structure.” Even more intriguing, the petition does not make it clear what kind of towers are involved.

Farmers and foresters will rejoice after two firms — Vision Services Group and Wilbur-Ellis Company — won exemptions to collect data and inspect operations for agriculture and forestry professionals.

Since September, the FAA has granted 62 Section 333 exemptions and closed 21 requests. Applicants must obtain a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) that ensures the airspace for their proposed operations is safe, and that they have taken proper steps to see and avoid other aircraft.

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