As previously explained the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is working on a rule to allow commercial use of unmanned aircraft (i.e. drones) without going through the same rules for manned aircraft. However, until the rule is finalized farmers and ranchers can apply for an exemption under Section 333 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (FMRA).
The exemption process is not necessarily easy. However, the FAA website provides detailed instructions for applying for a Section 333 exemption.
It is important to recognize the 333 exemption does not override other regulations including:
– The UAS registration and proper identification markings requirement and;
– The PIC’s airmen certificate and medical certificate requirement.
The FAA receives reports of unsafe drone operation on a daily basis, ranging from “incidents at sporting events, flights near manned aircraft, to interference with wildfire operations.” U.S. Transportation Secretary Announces Unmanned Aircraft Registration Requirement. In response, a task force is being created to develop a registration process for drones. The task force is also given the responsibility to make additional safety recommendation the task force deems imperative. Consequently, scouting fields or other agricultural uses for drones may be more difficult to perform absent an exemption. At least until the proposed rule becomes effective.
Currently, the FAA is offering blanket Certificates of Authorization (COA) for flights at or below 200 feet of any operator with a 333 exemption. The blanket COAs are limited to aircraft weighing less than 55 pounds and operated during daytime Visual Flight Rules and within visual line of sight of the UAS operator.
The FAA claims Section 333 exemptions are a priority and as of September 22, 2015 the FAA has granted 1,658 petitions. While the application may be tedious, a Section 333 exemption is currently your only option if you want to use that drone in your farm and ranch operation.