On August 29, 2016, the FAA implemented the unmanned aircraft system (UAS) rule, also known as Part 107. The rule created a regulatory framework for the civil and commercial operations of small UAS, weighing 55 pounds or less. Generally speaking, Part 107 requires operators to fly under 400 feet, within visual line of sight and only during daylight hours. UAS operators who want to fly outside the requirements of Part 107, such as to conduct beyond line of sight or nighttime operations, may request a waiver from the FAA. The FAA began issuing waivers the same day Part 107 took effect. To date, 314 waivers have been issued.
Platform data are courtesy of AUVSI’s Unmanned Systems & Robotics Database, the most comprehensive and searchable robotics database in the industry.
Waivers by State
California operators lead the way with 45 total waivers issued followed by Florida with 23 and Texas with 21. The map is also sortable based on the applications offered by the operators.
No waivers were issued to operators in Idaho, Montana, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont or West Virginia. The graph is also sortable based on the applications offered by the operators.
Operations Authorized via Waiver
The majority of waivers (94%) have authorized operations at night followed by the simultaneous operation of multiple UAS (4%). The specific sections from Part 107 that correspond with the graph above are as follows:
- Nighttime = 14 CFR § 107.29 Daylight operation
- Multiple UAS = 14 CFR § 107.35 Operation of multiple small unmanned aircraft
- Beyond Line of Sight (BLOS) = 14 CFR §107.31 Visual line of sight aircraft operation
- Visual Observer Requirement = 14 CFR § 107.33 Visual observer
- Flights Over People = 14 CFR § 107.39 Operations over human beings
- Operating Limitations = 14 CFR §107.51(c) and (d) Operating limitations for small unmanned aircraft
- From a Moving Vehicle = 14 CFR § 107.25(b) Operation from a moving vehicle or aircraft
Waivers by Month
The waiver process began on August 29 and the highest number of waivers issued in a single month was during this time, with 71 total waivers. Excluding September 2016 where only 3 waivers were issued, 63 waivers per month have been released on average. Of all the issued waivers, 15 received amendments. The last waiver added to the FAA’s website as of March 6 had been posted 10 weeks earlier. The graph is also sortable based on the applications offered by the operators and operator locations.
Small businesses make up approximately 90% of operators that received a waiver. There are a handful of large organizations that have also received waivers, like the railroad companies BNSF and Union Pacific and the technology company Intel. The graph is also sortable based on the applications offered by the operators and operator locations.
Fifty waivers were issued to a responsible individual without an associated company. However, most waivers went to companies with less than 10 employees (86%). The graph is also sortable based on the applications offered by the operators and operator locations.
Companies were evaluated for the applications in which they use sUAS. Each company can be associated with more than one application. The use of UAS for aerial photography was the most popular (84% of companies offered this service) followed by real estate (58%), aerial inspection (58%), construction (52%) and infrastructure (51%). We were unable to determine applications for 41 operators and thus percentages are based on a total of 273 operators as opposed to the full 314 granted waivers. The graph is also sortable based on operator locations.
The FAA master list for registered aircraft was referenced to determine the number/type of aircraft registered to waiver holders. Over 48% of registered aircraft are micro-UAS (<2kg or 4.4 lbs). The model with the most registered aircraft was the Ascending Technologies HUMMINGBIRD – all 110 were registered to Intel Corporation who uses the platforms for synchronized light shows. No registered platforms were listed for 68% of Operating Organizations/Associated Responsible Individuals (this is based on the master registry downloaded from the FAA website found here).
Manufacturers of Registered Aircraft
The manufacturers of aircraft registered to waiver holders were totaled. DJI Technology delivered the most aircraft followed by Ascending Technologies, PrecisionHawk, and AeroVironment.
Waiver data was collected from the FAA’s database. The applications associated with each operator were assessed based on those detailed on the company’s website as well as from the documents submitted to their FAA dockets. The provided revenue and employee ranges were identified using Hoover’s database. The platform data used in this report were taken from AUVSI’s Unmanned Systems and Robotics Database, which is the world’s largest database of air, ground and maritime unmanned platforms. For industry-specific analysis, there is no precise way to measure which of these platforms might be used for which industry application since many companies may offer more than one application and more than one platform.