Analysis of Section 333 Exemptions

As reported in a recent press release, Valmie has submitted its Section 333 petition for exemption to the FAA for civil operation of unmanned aerial systems (UAS). The exemption will allow Valmie to realize the advantages of drones for future clients in the U.S.

While we wait for our petition to be processed, I thought I would present a brief overview of FAA exemptions to date.

The agency approved the first commercial operators in September 2014 to a group of film and television production companies. Prior to this time the only approved commercial UAV operations were granted for minimal operations supporting oil and gas activities in the Arctic under a lengthy process originally developed for manned aircraft.

Within a year of commencing the exemption process, the agency ramped up its approval process and as of today, 1,008 petitions have been granted. The top industries receiving exemptions are

  1. Real estate
  2. Aerial surveying
  3. Aerial photography
  4. Agriculture
  5. Aerial inspection
  6. Construction
  7. Infrastructure inspection
  8. Utility inspection
  9. Film and Television
  10. Environmental

The top five states with most FAA-approved UAS operators are

  1. California
  2. Texas
  3. Florida
  4. Illinois
  5. Arizona

In February 2015 the FAA released its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for drones, a drafted set of rules that could govern the commercial UAV industry. It is expected that the rule will be reviewed and completed in mid-2016. Until then, the Section 333 exemption process remains the most effective manner for commercial operators to responsibly and safely gain access to the national airspace.

While this is a small segment of our nascent UAV industry in the U.S., it is the beginning of what will be a boundless economic driving force and a transformative business application that will increase society’s ability to save time and lives.