Yes, you read that correctly. The FAA got massively trolled by Peter Sachs, who applied for and received a Section 333 Exemption to commercially operate a PowerUp 3.0 Smart Phone-controlled paper airplane. From the article by John Goglia:
His exemption allows him to “conduct aerial photography and videography” with the powered paper airplane so long as he meets dozens of conditions specified in the exemption and attached certificate of authorization. I asked the FAA for comment on whether granting the exemption indicates that the FAA considers a powered paper airplane an unmanned aircraft system, or UAS. An FAA spokesperson responded that “Mr. Sachs submitted a valid petition for exemption, and we granted the requested relief.”
And while Mr. Sachs has a helicopter pilot’s license, he is not current, which means that, in order to operate his paper airplane, he will need to spend thousands of dollars to become current or to hire a pilot.
You can read the exemption and application, here.
This brings to mind the ruling of the law judge in the Pirker case, wherein he found that the FAA’s position, vis a vis regulation of model aircraft, would lead to the “risible argument that a flight in the air of, e.g., a paper aircraft, or a toy balsa wood glider, could subject the ‘operator’ to the regulatory provisions of [14 C.F.R. part 91 and] Section 91.13(a).” As we know, an appellate panel at the NTSB rejected that notion.
Well, now we know.