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FAA Raises Ceiling for UAS Altitude

The FAA recently announced that it plans to double the operating altitude for the blanket Certificate of Authorization (COA) granted to Section 333 exemption holders.
“The FAA’s decision to raise the operating altitude of the blanket COA from 200 feet to 400 feet provides greater flexibility to those receiving FAA exemptions and makes it easier for more commercial UAS operators to access the skies,” says Brian Wynne, AUVSI president and CEO. “While regulation by exemption is not a long-term solution for the many industries waiting to operate UAS for commercial purposes, this is another positive step toward the overall integration of UAS into the national airspace.

“The FAA still needs to finalize its small UAS rule as quickly as possible to allow anyone who follows the rule to fly,” he continues. “The new blanket COA altitude remains lower than the operating ceiling of 500 feet proposed in the small UAS rule. Other requirements for UAS operators under the Section 333 exemption process are more onerous than those contemplated in the proposed rule.”

In May 2014, the FAA announced it would consider granting exemptions for certain low-risk commercial UAS applications under Section 333 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. It began granting exemptions in September 2014, with more than 4,200 exemptions awarded thus far. According to AUVSI’s report on the first 1,000 exemptions, businesses in more than 25 industries representing more than 600,000 jobs and $500 billion in economic impact now are using the technology. 

“The UAS industry is poised to be one of the fastest growing in American history,” Wynne concludes. “We urge the FAA to finalize the small UAS rule without further delay so this technology can truly take off.”

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