Section 333 Improvement: Companies now have “blanket approval”

The FAA is making progress with this section 333 improvement.   On Tuesday an interim step was taken to make it easier for companies that have already received Section 333 approval.    The 45+ companies that have this approval now have the right to fly below 200 feet without gaining any additional approvals.  This is progress as it eliminates the need to file flight plans for missions below this altitude

Section 333 approval is challenging and time consuming and goes through a lengthy approval process that is slowed down, in part, due to understaffing.   We encourage the hiring of additional staff and the simplification of the approval process as there are more than 600 Section 333 applications in the queue at this moment.  These applications will spur competition, innovation, and add jobs to an economy that continues to need job growth.

Here is a snippet of an article in Fortune that covers this change.

“The Federal Aviation Administration on Tuesday released a new interim policy governing the use of certain small drones for commercial purposes, issuing a blanket authorization for unmanned aircraft flights below 200 feet. But the new rules won’t benefit everyone equally. The new policy only applies to the roughly 45 companies that have already obtained permission to fly through the FAA’s slow and stringent “Section 333” process.

Under existing FAA rules, there are two ways to gain clearance for unmanned aircraft system (UAS) operations. One can apply for a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA), which typically grant government agencies or research institutions permission to use drones under fairly restrictive circumstances, usually for research. Businesses can also apply for permission to use drones through what’s known as Section 333 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, under which the FAA can grant companies approval to fly drones commercially under certain defined parameters.

The FAA has approved only 53 Section 333 applications for roughly 45 companies thus far. Some 600 applications are still pending, stuck in a slow-moving approval pipeline. The FAA’s new policy grants any company or entity that has already cleared the Section 333 approval process a blanket COA to fly below 200 feet. In other words, those companies that are already approved to fly under Section 333 now have blanket approval to fly below 200 feet.

If all that sounds a bit confusing, here’s what it really means: If you weren’t authorized to fly before, you still can’t. But for those with Section 333 exemptions, the FAA just slashed through a whole lot of red tape. Section 333 exemptions come with a lot of bureaucratic baggage. For instance, users that simply want to test a new flight software patch or use a drone to inspect something no higher than a power line have to file flight plans with the FAA. The blanket COA essentially allows those same companies to operate much more flexibly and without so much government oversight provided they’re willing to keep their aircraft below 200 feet.”

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