FAA Grants 2,000 UAS Waivers in Two Years of Part 107

On the two-year anniversary of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) regulations for operating small commercial unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), Part 107, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) has released an analysis of FAA waivers for UAS operations beyond the scope of Part 107 and found that nearly 2,000 have been granted.

According to AUVSI, nearly 92% of the waivers grant permission to operate UAS at night. The report also shows that first responders around the country are embracing expanded UAS operations, with close to 200 having received waivers.

Effective Aug. 28, 2016, Part 107 to Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations, also known as the Small UAS Rule, created a uniform regulatory framework for UAS. Among the rule’s requirements, UAS must fly below 400 feet, within the visual line of sight and during daylight hours. However, the FAA created a waiver process that allows for expanded types of operations.

As of Aug. 15, 2018, drone operators in all 50 states and Puerto Rico have used waivers for expanded operations, the report says. Operators who received the most waivers reside in California, followed by Florida, Texas, Colorado and Illinois.

“The continuing high demand for Part 107 waivers demonstrates that operators are more eager than ever to harness the great potential of unmanned aviation technology,” states Brian Wynne, AUVSI’s president and CEO. “In order for the industry to reach its full potential, we need to move beyond granting permission on a case-by-case basis, as we do today, and instead implement a regulatory framework that establishes rules for expanded operations. Until we do that, progress towards the goal of integrating UAS into the nation’s airspace will continue to stall.”

In its report, AUVSI analyzed 1,960 waiver documents granted to more than 1,800 operators in the past two years. In addition to nighttime operations (1,800 waivers), the FAA has granted the following waivers:

Fly in certain airspace (97);
Operate multiple UAS at the same time (41);
Operate beyond other imposed operational limits of Part 107 such as speed, distance from clouds or flight visibility (28);
Fly beyond the visual line of sight (23);
Conduct flights over people (13);
Fly without a visual observer (13); and
Operate UAS from a moving vehicle (5).

Of the over 1,800 unique operators who were granted waivers, almost 60% (1,069) were associated with a service-based company. The report says they operate in a range of markets, including professional inspection and photography, surveying, construction, and utilities.

Other operators were as follows:

First responders (194);
Government entities (34);
Academics (25); and
Platform manufacturers (23).

In addition, 483 individuals did not identify themselves as affiliated with a specific organization, the report notes.

Of the waivers granted to companies, over 90% went to small businesses with annual revenues of less than $1 million, according to the analysis.

“There is great enthusiasm for UAS across a number of industries, and more than 170,000 platforms have been registered for commercial purposes, and more than 100,000 people have obtained their Remote Pilot Certificates,” adds Wynne. “Once remote ID and an expanded regulatory framework are in place, there is no doubt that this technology will positively impact businesses across a number of sectors.”

AUVSI’s complete report can be found here.

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