On January 30, 2015, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) granted three more Section 333 exemptions for commercial use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in the United States.

The first of the new exemptions authorizes UAS operations for aerial videography/filmmaking and surveying for industries; the second is for aerial filming for movies and TV; and the third is for flare stack inspections in certain industries. The conditions and limitations imposed on the three new exemptions are generally a combination of conditions and limitations previously imposed in the 16 prior exemptions granted by the FAA, or variations thereof. In addition however, in this latest set of exemptions and the corresponding limitations, the FAA continued to reject several proposals to expand operations beyond those granted previously (e.g., no “beyond visual line of sight” operations; no pilot-only operations; no operations from elevated platforms; no texting during flight operations).

The petitions seeking these three newest exemptions were filed in late July, late September, and mid-August 2014. The exemption granted in just over four months from the initial petition was apparently facilitated by the fact that it was based on, and similar to, the Section 333 UAS exemptions previously granted to the motion picture industry.

The FAA has now granted 19 Section 333 UAS exemptions. More than 300 such petitions for commercial operations exemptions have been filed to date, with more being filed practically every day.