Section 333 exemption holders and government aircraft operators are getting some more room to use their unmanned systems. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has announced it is doubling its “blanket” altitude authorization to 400 feet; the agency previously put a nationwide Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) at 200 feet.
“This is another milestone in our effort to change the traditional speed of government,” said Michael Huerta, FAA administrator. “Expanding the authorized airspace for these operations means government and industry can carry out unmanned aircraft missions more quickly and with less red tape.”
Under the new COA policy, operators operating unmanned aircraft weighing less than 55 pounds with a Section 333 exemption for government UAS operations can fly up to 400 feet anywhere in the country (expect in restricted airspace areas).
The FAA hopes this move will reduce the workload for COA applications, and estimates it will decrease the need for individual COAs by 30% to 40%. Drone operators still need to make sure they register their drone, get proper certification, fly under daytime Visual Flight Rules, keep the drone within their visual line of sight, and stay a certain distance away from airports and heliports.