FAA streamlines UAS flight – bridge to new rules

FAA streamlines UAS flight – bridge to new rules

Life for UAS operators just got a bit easier.  The FAA has issued a bridge between the current cumbersome system of Section 333 exemptions with airspace block specific Certificates of Authority (COAs) and the eventual final form of the recently released “new rules” that are still in the comment period.

The interim policy does not tract the technical parameters of the proposed new rules.  Instead the bridge seeks to grant a blanket COA for UAS operators who have a valid exemption under Section 333 so that the operator no longer needs an individual COA for a specific block of airspace.  The blanket COA will have more restrictive technical parameters than the proposed new rules.

From the FAA website (March 23, 2015):

“Under the new policy, the FAA will grant a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) for flights at or below 200 feet to any UAS operator with a Section 333 exemption for aircraft that weigh less than 55 pounds, operate during daytime Visual Flight Rules (VFR) conditions, operate within visual line of sight (VLOS) of the pilots, and stay certain distances away from airports or heliports:

    • 5 nautical miles (NM) from an airport having an operational control tower; or
    • 3 NM from an airport with a published instrument flight procedure, but not an operational tower; or
    • 2 NM from an airport without a published instrument flight procedure or an operational tower; or
    • 2  NM from a heliport with a published instrument flight procedure”.


This interim policy should save operators the approximately 60 day turn time for each COA needed under the block specific approach.  One observation holds true – things are getting more complex for UAS operators on the way to what may be a clearer, simpler set of final new rules.

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