VOLUME 16 Unmanned Aircraft Systems
CHAPTER 4 OPERATIONAL REQUIREMENTS AND APPROVAL
Section 2 Operations in Accordance With Public Law 112-95, Section 333, and Exemptions
16-4-2-1 PURPOSE. This section provides guidance and policy to aviation safety inspectors (ASI) concerning the inspection and surveillance of
civil Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) operations conducted in the National Airspace System (NAS) under Public Law (PL) 112-95, FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012
(FMRA), Section 333, Special Rules for Certain Unmanned Aircraft Systems, and a grant of exemption issued under Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) Part
11, General Rulemaking Procedures.
16-4-2-3 AUDIENCE. The primary audience for this notice is all Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) ASIs. The secondary audience includes Flight
Standards Service policy divisions responsible for implementation.
16-4-2-5 BACKGROUND. In 2007, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) published a notice in the Federal Register (FR) (72 FR 6689, Unmanned Aircraft
Operations in the National Airspace System, February 13, 2007) stating that all unmanned aircraft (UA), regardless of size, performance capability, or purpose of flight, are considered
aircraft. This determination was made in response to the dramatic growth in the number of unmanned operations being conducted; the reliance on complex, uncertified technologies; and the
resulting overall increase in risks to persons in the air and on the ground.
A. PL 112-95. On February 14, 2012, the President signed into law PL 112-95, which established in section 333 a requirement for the Secretary of Transportation
to determine if certain UAS may operate safely in the NAS based on criteria set forth in section 333(b) prior to compliance with section 332 and/or section 334 of the Act.
B. Exemptions. The Secretary of Transportation has determined that certain UAS are eligible to operate in the NAS without possessing the airworthiness
certification required under Title 49 of the United States Code (49 U.S.C.) § 44704. For civil UAS operations conducted under section 333 of PL 112-95, the Secretary has determined that
specific requirements necessary for the safe operation are addressed in the form of grants of exemption(s).
1) Persons who desire this regulatory relief must petition the Administrator for exemption in accordance with part
11 and the guidance provided at
https://www.faa.gov/uas/. For a complete list of exemptions granted under section 333 of PL 112-95, visit
2) Public/governmental entities may also petition the Administrator for a grant of exemption of applicable regulations to conduct civil
operations using UAS. Examples of petitions that have been granted to conduct civil UAS operations include the following activities:
• Closed-set motion picture and television filming.
• Agricultural survey and spraying.
• Aerial photography.
• Land survey and inspection.
• Inspection of structures.
• Search and Rescue (SAR) operations.
• Pilot training.
• Research and development (R&D).
16-4-2-7 EXEMPTION APPLICATION. Petitioners seeking a grant of exemption fill out an online application on the public docket at
A. Guidance Materials. Detailed guidance, including a section 333 checklist and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section, as well as
other guidance materials, is available at
B. Federal Register. The FR is the official daily publication for rules, proposed rules, and notices of Federal agencies and organizations,
as well as Executive Orders and other presidential documents.
1) The “Regulations.gov Docket Information” sidebar to the right on each FR document’s page identifies the public comment docket and
links to the docket folder, the comments received, and any supporting materials contained in the docket.
2) The docket staff assigns a docket number. For petitions submitted under section 333, the sequence is “FAA-year-four-digit sequence
number” (e.g., FAA-2016-1234).
16-4-2-9 OFFICE OF RULEMAKING (ARM). ARM receives all initial petitions for exemption, and requests for amendment, through the mail or via the docket. If received
through the mail, the petition must be sent to the Docket Office for processing. When received from the docket, ARM downloads the documents to a dedicated computer drive, reviews the petition to
determine the Office of Primary Responsibility (OPR), and assigns an analyst. Exemption requests representing unique or precedent-setting operations will be sent to the General Aviation and
Commercial Division for an indepth review. If the petition is similar in all material respects to others previously granted, it remains within ARM and will be processed as a summary grant.
16-4-2-11 GRANTS OF EXEMPTION. Exemptions granted for the commercial operation of UAS under the provisions of section 333 of PL 112-95 will be in one of three
forms: a full grant of exemption, a partial grant, or a summary grant of exemption. Petitioners submitting a petition for exemption representing unique or precedent‑setting operations will
receive an indepth review, and the petition, if approved, will lead to a full or partial grant of exemption. A summary grant is granted when the FAA finds an exemption has been previously granted
for circumstances similar in all material respects to those presented in an individual’s petition.
16-4-2-13 CERTIFICATE OF WAIVER OR AUTHORIZATION (CoW/A). Under current policy, when a petitioner is granted an exemption, they will also receive a CoW/A, FAA
Form 7711-1, Certificate of Waiver or Authorization, approved by the FAA Air Traffic Organization (ATO) Emerging Technologies Team (AJV-115). Though approved by AJV-115, the CoW/A is issued by
ARM when the grant of exemption is approved. In some instances, the CoW/A is issued to the petitioner by name; however, in most cases, the CoW/A is issued to “Any Operator with a valid
Section 333 Grant of Exemption.” These CoW/As will be approved limiting operations to altitudes at or below 400 feet above ground level (AGL) and within certain distances from airports as
prescribed in the special provisions in the CoW/A. These CoW/As are sometimes referred to as “broad area or blanket CoW/As.” If an exemption holder desires to operate at a distance
from an airport contrary to the special provisions prescribed in a “blanket CoW/A,” they must make application for a site-specific CoW/A through the AJV‑115. All requests should be
submitted at least 60 days in advance to
16-4-2-15 ACTION. When a FSDO becomes aware that an exemption has been granted under the provisions under section 333 of PL 112-95 to a UAS operator
that is within their geographic area of responsibility, the FSDO managers may elect to contact each exemption holder that resides within their respective districts to secure a copy of their
grant of exemption, broad area CoW/A, and operating documents to establish an office file for the exemption holder.
A. Compliance. PL 112-95 defines a UA as an “aircraft.” Therefore, compliance with all applicable Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) parts is
required. FSDO managers should allocate sufficient resources, when available, to perform targeted surveillance of an exemption holder to determine compliance with the conditions and limitations
set forth in their grant of exemption, the special provisions contained in a CoW/A, and the exemption holder’s operating documents, in the public interest.
B. Surveillance and Inspection. Surveillance and/or inspection of the holder of an exemption granted to a UAS operator under the provision of under section 333
of PL 112-95 should be conducted in accordance with the guidance contained in this volume.
C. Variations in FAA Order 8900.1. Inspectors should be aware that important chapters and/or sections in Order 8900.1 concerning surveillance are based on
manned aircraft operations, and may vary noticeably from exemptions granted under section 333 of PL 112-95. Similarly, there may be significant differences between guidance found in Volume 3
and the processes used by ARM and the General Aviation and Commercial Division. For example, operating documents submitted and referenced in a grant of exemption provide the basis for the
petitioner’s equivalent level, or no adverse impact upon safety per part
1) This does not necessarily mean that the operating documents have been approved or accepted by the FAA unless specifically noted in a grant of exemption.
2) Therefore, an exemption holder may make revisions to their operating documents provided the revision does not change the basis for which
relief was originally granted under the exemption, or are contrary to a conditions and limitations in an exemption.
D. Operating Documents. The operating documents are often generic, and produced by the UA manufacturer. The primary documents for surveillance or inspection
are the grant of exemption, CoW/A, and the exemption holder’s operating documents. Adherence to those conditions and limitations within the exemption, the special provisions within the
CoW/A and the operating documents are required for the operator to be in regulatory compliance.
1) Inspectors familiar with reviewing detailed manuals for typical commercial operations should exercise caution and not apply standards usually applied to 14 CFR part
119 certificate holders conducting operations under part
2) Where differences are encountered between the exemption holders’ operating documents and the conditions and limitations in a grant of exemption,
the conditions and limitations in a grant of exemption take precedent.
E. Specific Examples. ASIs should pay particular attention to the following areas:
1) Pilot Certification. Each exemption includes numerous conditions and limitations which provide requirements related to pilot certification, currency,
and training. Medical requirements are also included where applicable. These requirements may vary considerably from one exemption to another (e.g., sport pilot with a valid state driver’s
license, through airline transport pilot (ATP) with a first-class FAA medical, or any combination of pilot’s certificate and medical, including an ATP with driver’s license.)
Adherence to the conditions and limitations section of the exemption is required.
2) Aircraft Registration. The exemption requires that each UAS is registered and marked prior to operations; however, registration is not required
at the time an exemption is granted.
3) Aircraft Model Numbers. Similar to manned aircraft, UA model numbers may be entered in the Program Tracking and Reporting Subsystem (PTRS).
4) Regulatory Compliance. The remote pilot in command (PIC) is responsible for complying with all applicable regulations unless an exemption to a
particular regulation has been granted.
5) Aircraft Maintenance. Exemptions granting relief from certain 14 CFR part
requirements will contain conditions and limitations related to maintenance and inspection requirements in the grant of exemption. The exemption holder’s operating documents must
be adhered to when operating under the terms of exemptions.
6) Operational Area. Must be within Visual Line of Sight (VLOS) of the pilot. Depending on the size and speed of the UAS and current weather
conditions, it may be challenging to keep the UA within VLOS of the PIC at all times.
7) Operations in Proximity to Persons, Vehicles, Structures, etc. ASIs should pay particular attention to the requirements of part
including relevant conditions and limitations in the exemption.
8) Compliance with Conditions and Limitations Listed in the Grant of Exemption and Special Provisions in the CoW/A. Conditions and limitations
and/or special provisions contained within the exemption or CoW/A are considered to be mandatory. If the PIC fails to comply with any condition or limitation, the ASI must
immediately notify the PIC and determine if followup action is necessary.
9) Airworthiness Certification Per 49 U.S.C. § 44704. The Secretary of Transportation has made the determination that airworthiness certification
per § 44704 is not necessary; therefore, UAS operated in accordance with a grant of exemption issued under the provisions of section 333 of PL 112-95 will not possess or require an
16-4-2-17 COMPLIANCE AND ENFORCEMENT. UAS operations described in this notice are conducted in accordance with our current regulatory structure. When an
apparent violation exists, ASIs must investigate in accordance with current guidance contained in FAA Order
FAA Compliance and Enforcement Program, and FAA Order 8900.1, Volumes 14 and 16. ASIs must document all surveillance activities in accordance with PTRS guidance.
16-4-2-19 REFERENCE MATERIAL (current editions).
• FAA Unmanned Aircraft Systems website:
access exemptions granted to UAS operators under the provisions of section 333 of PL 112-95, U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO)).
• Title 14 CFR Part
11, General Rulemaking Procedures, §
What Information Must I Include in My Petition for an Exemption?
• PL 112-95, FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (FMRA):
https://www.congress.gov (select “Public Laws” and enter “112-95” in the search row).
• Order JO
7200.23, Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS).
16-4-2-21 through 16-4-2-29 RESERVED.