In the first year since the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) launched the Part 107 small UAS rule, more than 1,000 operators have received waivers, according to a new report from the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI). The report shows that most of the waivers allow pilots to operate UAS at night, which is not permitted under the current rule.
“The demand for Part 107 waivers demonstrates that we are at the dawn of a new American renaissance in aviation and technology, one that deserves government attention and support to help the UAS industry reach its full potential,” says Brian Wynne, president and CEO of AUVSI. “Establishing regulations for expanded UAS operations, such as those already being conducted safely under the rule, rather than granting permission on a case-by-case basis will allow more U.S. businesses to reap the benefits of UAS and help facilitate the future of commerce.”
Part 107 to Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations created a uniform regulatory framework for UAS. Among the rule’s requirements, UAS must fly below 400 feet, within visual line of sight and during daylight hours. However, Part 107 also established a waiver process for UAS operators to request permission from the FAA to fly outside the permitted standards, if it can be done safely. Since Part 107 went into effect one year ago this week, operators in 47 states have used the waivers to broaden the capabilities of their UAS and the commercial services they offer.
According to AUVSI’s report, the FAA has granted 1,074 waivers as of the end of July 2017. In addition to nighttime operations (959 waivers), the FAA has granted waivers to fly in certain airspace (96 waivers), operate multiple UAS at the same time (17 waivers), fly beyond line of sight (four waivers) and conduct flights over people (three waivers).
Operators granted waivers were evaluated for the services they offer. Aerial photography is the most popular, representing 79 percent of the operators granted waivers, followed by real estate (56 percent), aerial inspection (50 percent), construction (47 percent) and infrastructure inspection/survey (43 percent). Approximately 85 percent of the waivers went to small businesses.
Earlier this year, AUVSI convened a Remote Pilots Council (RPC) composed of the association’s members from across the country to provide feedback to the FAA on real-world UAS operations and offer suggestions for greater efficiency in the waiver process. RPC members have helped identify operational challenges and potential solutions through UAS regulation as businesses continue to adopt the technology.
“Industry-government collaboration has gotten us to this point, and AUVSI and its members are dedicated to continue the conversation on how to further integrate UAS into the airspace,” Wynne says. “The UAS industry is projected to create more than 100,000 jobs and provide more than $82 billion in economic impact over the next decade. With an expanded regulatory framework, these numbers could go even higher.”
The complete report analysis can be found here.
The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) — a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of unmanned systems and robotics — represents more than 7,500 members from more than 60 countries involved in the fields of government, industry and academia. AUVSI members work in the defense, civil and commercial markets.