The Federal Aviation Administration’s Earl Lawrence, director of the agency’s UAS Integration Office, said in an AUVSI-hosted webinar on Thursday that the agency is bracing for a flood of interest in the new small UAS rule, which takes effect on Monday.
More than 3,300 people have already registered to take the written test on the first day, highlighting what webinar host Brian Wynne, president and CEO of AUVSI, said is interest in the “long awaited” rule that will allow some commercial operations without burdensome requirements, such as a pilot’s license.
“This is truly one of the first operational rules for the routine use of UAS,” Lawrence said. “And I want to stress that we are now transitioning to the routine operation of UAS.”
While there are still strict limits: No flying beyond line of sight, no flying above 400 feet, no night flights, many of these can be circumvented with the agency’s new waiver process, which will also be active on Aug. 29.
The agency will actually start issuing waivers on the first day, based on requests that have come in through the existing Section 333 process. That process will continue, but only for flight operations that won’t fit under the Part 107, or small UAS rule, or under the waiver process.
Two of the most popular requests are for flights over people and flights at night. Lawrence said some existing Section 333 exemptions already allow this, and interested parties should look at those for guidance on how to meet the requirements, or wait until some of the first waivers have been posted and study them.
Lawrence said the first step for anyone having questions is to call the new help line, 1-844-FLY-MY-UA, which will be staffed with “live people” to answer questions during business hours. Information is also available on the FAA’s www.faa.gov/UAS page, which will be revamped with a new waiver portal on Monday.
The Section 333 exemption process sometimes took months for final approval; Lawrence said the waiver process is different and should be much faster.
“We didn’t have waivers before, that was an exemption process. An exemption process has different rules under the law which must be followed,” he said, such as obtaining public comments. “A waiver is something in complete control of the agency.”
However, he said if the FAA gets 200,000 waiver applications on Monday morning, “it may take us a little while to get through that.”
He said it should be noted that the FAA has just opened up “an awful lot of airspace, a lot of opportunities under visual line of sight … but we realize we’re just getting started.”
Listen to the webinar here. (Members-only)
<< Back to the News