Increased FAA approval of UAS waivers
On Aug 29, 2016, the FAA implemented Part 107 of title 14 of the code of Federal Regulations, also known as the small unmanned aircraft systems UAS rule. It created a regulatory framework that enabled civilian and commercial operators of UAS. UAS weighing 55 lbs. or less.
Generally, Part 107 requires operators to fly under 400 feet above ground level, within visual line of sight and only during daylight hours. UAS operators who want to fly outside the requirements of part 107, such as to conduct beyond line of sight or nighttime operations, may request a waiver from the FAA. The FAA began issuing waivers the same day Part 107 took effect.
Almost four years later, the FAA has granted more than 4000 waivers to UAV pilots in all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. The number of waivers granted per quarter reached an initial peak in the beginning of 2017 as pilots vied to be the first to fly under these new regulations however, as the FAA worked through the backlog, the approval rate rapidly declined by the end of the year since then, the number of waivers issued per quarter has steadily increased with a historic peak in the first quarter of 2020. Almost 95% of currently active waivers enable UAS flights at night. The other 5% allow more advanced flight profiles like those over people, in excess of 100 mph, higher than 400 feet above ground level, under limited flight visibility, or with decreased distance relative to clouds.
Waivers can also modify the ground control requirements, thus enabling an operator to concurrently control multiple UAS, to fly without the required visual observer sport to control the aircraft from a moving vehicle. Waivers are granted to “responsible individuals” who may or may not be linked to an associated organization on the waiver permit. Nearly 57% of waivers are granted to an individual with an associated organization. Businesses that operate UAS for financial gain are categorized as service organizations and account for over 72% of waivers granted to individuals associated with an organization many of these businesses offer aerial imaging solutions for a range of applications including real estate, landscape photography, infrastructure inspections, and agriculture environmental surveys.
First responders comprise 19% of the organizations granted waivers most of which enable nighttime operations for search and rescue or firefighting. More than 87% of entities granted a Part 107 exemption generate less than $1,000,000 in annual revenue. As such, it is important that the waiver process be standardized and easy to navigate to ensure that small businesses with minimal resources are able to take advantage of the benefits enabled by advanced operations.
If your organization needs a Part 107 waiver then contact UAS attorney Clint Dunaway at the Dunaway Law Group at 480-389-6529 or send us a message HERE.