FAA Grants 30 New Commercial UAS Exemptions



AeroVironment will use its Puma AE hand-launched unmanned aircraft system, shown here in Alaska, for commercial agriculture, survey and patrol applications. Photo: AeroVironment.

Last Friday, the Federal Aviation Administration approved 30 more commercial unmanned aircraft systems exemptions, bringing the total number of approved operations to 99. 

Newly approved companies include insurance giants USAA and AIG and AUVSI members AeroVironment and senseFly. 

UAS will help insurance companies respond faster to claims following natural disasters, according to a USAA press release. USAA also has another approval pending that will further improve its ability to use unmanned aircraft in catastrophes. 

“Our members have grown accustomed to seeing us pave the way for innovative solutions that streamline the claims process,” says USAA Property and Casualty Insurance Group President Alan Krapf. 

The FAA approved USAA’s use of a drone made by PrecisionHawk, also an AUVSI member, for daytime, line-of-sight flights under 400 feet with a trained pilot. USAA will work with PrecisionHawk to develop best practices, safety and privacy protocols, and procedures for future operational use.

“We’re proud to be among the first insurers approved to test this technology,” says Krapf. “It’s our responsibility to explore every option to improve our members’ experience.”

AeroVironment was approved for agriculture, aerial survey and patrol applications, while senseFly will fly for precision agriculture, each using their own systems.

"We are actively pursuing multiple regulatory pathways for deploying our proven unmanned aircraft systems and services to the benefit of companies and government agencies, says Vice President of Marketing Strategy, Communication and Investor Relations for AeroVironment Steven Gitlin in an email to AUVSI. "The Section 333 exemption is one such example that will enable us to help customers in multiple industries improve safety, increase productivity and benefit from important new capabilities we can provide to them."

The FAA has picked up the pace of commercial exemptions in recent weeks by quickly approving new applications that match previously approved operations. However, the FAA has still received about 700 petitions to date.

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