FAA Grants UAS Exemptions to Four Companies



The FAA on Wednesday granted four companies exemptions for operating unmanned aerial systems in various functions including aerial surveys, construction site monitoring and oil rig flare inspections. The companies are Trimble Navigation Limited, VDOS Global LLC, Clayco Inc. and Woolpert Inc., which received two exemptions.The FAA is expected to propose rules governing drones by the end of the year, and has been under pressure to grant exemptions in the meantime.During Wednesday’s hearing of theU.S. House Aviation Subcommittee on integrating UAS into the national airspace system, the FAA said it continues to track data on current drone use by public and private operators along with six test sites designated around the country.

“We are also working with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to address and educate the public about the unsafe, or unauthorized, use of UAS since they are often in the best position to deter, detect, and immediately investigate such activity,” said Peggy Gilligan, FAA associate administrator for aviation safety. Also testifying was theAir Line Pilots Association, which maintained its position that drone operators should have the same qualifications as aircraft pilots. “We also need to make certain the UAS pilots are properly trained and understand the consequences of possible malfunctions,” said Lee Moak, ALPA president. “A pilot in the cockpit of an aircraft can see, feel, smell, and hear indications of a problem and begin to formulate a course of action long before even the most sophisticated indicators verify the trouble.”

So far, the FAA has granted UAS exemptions to seven film and video companies along with the four announced Wednesday. Trimble Navigation and Woolpert plan to conduct aerial surveys with drones, while VDOS Global willinspect flare stacks in the Gulf of Mexico for Shell Oil. Clayco will use drones to inspect construction sites. “We are excited to see the FAA grant these exemptions for commercial use of UAS and to begin to unlock the various benefits of this technology,” said Michael Toscano, president & CEO of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International. “While this is a positive step, granting exemptions on a case-by-case basis is not an effective way to regulate the use of UAS in the long term. The FAA needs to begin the rulemaking process and finalize a rule for the use of UAS as quickly as possible.”