In the past few days, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has granted five more Section 333 exemptions for commercial use of UAS in the United States, bringing the total of such exemptions granted to date to 29.
These latest exemptions were granted for UAS operations (i) for the purpose of providing high-resolution aerial imagery to a domestic agricultural seed company, for agricultural analysis including biomass estimation, yield monitoring, leaf area indexing, and overall crop health to help maximize crop yields; (ii) for the purpose of providing high-resolution aerial imagery in support of biomass analysis and estimation, yield monitoring, leaf area indexing, and reporting of geographical data and overall crop health to a domestic agricultural seed company; (iii) for purposes of aerial imagery in support of agriculture; (iv) for the purpose of supporting the agriculture, oil/gas, aerial photography, and wildlife preservation industries; and (v) for inspections of bridge infrastructure.
The conditions and limitations imposed on these five new exemptions are generally a combination of conditions and limitations imposed on other UAS operators in earlier exemptions. The FAA continues to require the Pilot in Command to have at least a private pilot certificate and a third-class airman medical certificate. All but one of these five new exemptions impose the FAA’s more recent express condition limiting the Visual Observer’s tasks to assisting the pilot with see-and-avoid. As with other earlier exemptions, the FAA also conditions these exemptions on maintaining a 500-foot buffer from non-participants unless certain specific safeguards are implemented. Finally, the last exemption (Asymmetric Technologies) makes clear that the FAA will only grant exemptions for the specific UAS use cases for which sufficient data and information are presented and not for general, unsupported categories of operations.
The petitions underlying these most recent exemptions were filed in late September and early October 2014, about four months ago.