Last week, on the two-year anniversary of the small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) rule (or Part 107), a report was released by the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) stating that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has granted approximately 2,000 waivers since the inception of Part 107. Part 107 sets forth certain parameters and requirements for the safe operation of UAS in the national airspace. Among some of those requirements, UAS must fly below 400 feet, within visual line of sight and during daylight hours. However, the FAA implemented a waiver process that allows for operations beyond the scope of the rule.

The report analyzed 1,960 waiver documents granted to more than 1,800 operators over the past two years. According to the report, about 92 percent of the waivers grant permission to operate UAS at night. Additionally, the report indicates that more than 200 first responders received waivers from the FAA for their drone operations. In addition to the large number of waivers for nighttime operations, the FAA also granted waivers to:

  • Fly in certain restricted airspace (97);
  • Operate multiple UAS at the same time (41);
  • Operate beyond other imposed operational limits such as speed, distance from clouds or flight visibility (28);
  • Fly beyond the visual line of sight (23);
  • Conduct flights over people (13);
  • Fly without a visual observer (13);
  • Operate UAS from a moving vehicle (5).

As of August 15, 2018, UAS operators in all 50 states and Puerto Rico have used waivers. The most waivers have been received by operators residing in California, followed by Florida, Texas, Colorado, and Illinois. The report also states that the waivers were granted across a wide-range of markets, including professional inspection and photography, surveying, construction and utilities. In addition to first responders and service-based companies, government entities, academics and platform manufacturers were also granted waivers. Also, 483 individuals who do not associate themselves with a particular organization were granted waivers.

AUVSI’s complete report can be found here.