On September 25, 2014, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced a round of regulatory exemptions permitting commercial use of small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS, also known as small drones). Six aerial photo and video production companies successfully petitioned for the exemptions, and the FAA requested additional information from a seventh production company. This marks a significant step in permitting commercial use of drones. Previously, nearly all FAA certification for non-governmental drone use involved experimental activity such as research and training, and did not allow for commercial use. These exemptions, however, will allow commercial use of small UAS under specific conditions for safe operation.
With interest in commercial sUAS use growing, the FAA’s announcement specifically noted “the promise of new advances in agriculture and utility safety and maintenance.” Forty other requests for exemptions from commercial entities are pending. The FAA expects to release draft rules for integrating sUAS into the national airspace in late 2014.