This week, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) announced that it has granted over 1,000 Section 333 exemptions to allow commercial operations of small unmanned aircraft systems (“sUAS”). The press release is available, here.

The FAA granted the first exemptions in July 2014 for closed-set filming operations. Since April 2015, the number of Section 333 exemption grants has increased dramatically because the FAA streamlined the exemption process by issuing summary grants. More information about the summary grants can be found on our April 7, 2015, post, available here. The approved commercial purposes have also expanded dramatically and include precision agriculture, real estate photography, search and rescue operations, insurance inspections, electrical transmission and utility inspections, surface mining, construction site imaging, and more.

The FAA is already looking to move away from sUAS regulation by exemption. The agency is now working to issue final rules for commercial sUAS operations that it proposed in February 2015, available here. Additional information on the proposed rules can be found on our February 15, 2015 post, here, and about the more than 4,500 comments to the proposed rules on our May 27, 2015 post, here.