More than 1,000 Federal Aviation Administration Section 333 exemption requests have been approved as of Tuesday, FAA said.
A variety of companies and individuals were approved for the exemptions, which covered activities such as motion picture production, precision agriculture and real estate photography.
FAA exemptions also covered uses like inspecting power distribution towers and wiring, railroad infrastructure and bridges.
Section 333 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 gives the Secretary of Transportation authority to determine if an airworthiness certificate is required for a UAS to operate safely in the national airspace system.
To address the demand for Section 333 authorizations, the FAA recently streamlined the process to make it easier for operators to access the nation’s airspace.
In March, the agency began issuing “blanket” Certificates of Waiver or Authorization to Section 333 exemption holders.
This COA allows flights anywhere in the country at or below 200 feet except in restricted airspace, close to airports, and other areas, such as major cities where the FAA prohibits UAS operations. Previously, an operator had to apply for and receive a COA for a particular block of airspace, a process that can take as long as 60 days.
To expedite the processing of Section 333 petitions, in April the FAA began to issue summary grants for operations similar to those that it has already approved. Summary grants are more efficient, FAA says, because approval is based on analysis from a previously granted exemption.
FAA earlier this year also released a proposed rule governing routine use of certain small unmanned aircraft systems that covers safety for non-recreational operations.
The rule would limit flights to daylight and visual-line-of-sight operations. It also addresses height restrictions, operator certification, optional use of a visual observer, aircraft registration and marking, and operational limits. Public comment on the proposal closed April 24.