Attorney: FAA has made progress in granting of 333 exemptions

By Ann Bailey | October 08, 2015

The FAA has expedited the grant approval process for UAS companies, says a veteran UAS industry attorney.

“Granted, we are still behind other countries, but I have seen progress on other fronts,” said Anne Swanson, a partner in Washington DC-based Cooley’s communications practice. The law firm developed the precedent-setting legal template that led to the first granted drone exemptions. Other law firms have followed Cooley’s model and it has been used by other firms and companies in securing additional exemptions.

Swanson tells her clients who are writing exemption requests to the FAA to do research about their full-scope of intended use and consider carefully what particular aircraft meet those needs. They should be aware the process takes 90 to 100 days to receive a 333 exemption.  

In the past year, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has issued roughly 1,800 section 333 exemptions allowing entities to operate unmanned aircraft systems commercially. Before issuing exemptions on a batch-approval basis, the FAA issued 333’s case- by case basis. Currently, FAA issues 333’s by grouping applications together based on certain variables such as UAS mission or purpose.

“Take a little time at the beginning to know what craft you want in that specific grant,” she said. That will save the company time and money in the long run because they won’t have to re-submit the grant.

By the end of last month, the FAA was supposed to have fully integrated UAS into the National Airspace, but missed the September 30 deadline set by Congress. The 4,000 comments the FAA received from the public regarding integration was fewer than the agency expected, Swanson said, and she expects that FAA , will have the integration completed by the first half of 2017 or possibly even in 2016.

In the meantime, “2016 is going to be the year of the state and local regulations,” Swanson said. Several other entities focused on furthering the commercial reach of UAS also have noted the expected rise in state-based drone regulations that could be difficult to enforce.