Petitioning for Exemption under Section 333

The below list contains step-by-step instructions for requesting FAA authorization to operate a UAS for civil (non-governmental) purposes other than for recreation or hobby.

  1. Review the FAA's Guidelines for Submitting a Petition for Exemption.

    This website details the general exemption process for filing any petition for exemption, and it provide...

The below list contains step-by-step instructions for requesting FAA authorization to operate a UAS for civil (non-governmental) purposes other than for recreation or hobby.

  1. Review the FAA's Guidelines for Submitting a Petition for Exemption.

    This website details the general exemption process for filing any petition for exemption, and it provides answers to frequently asked questions.

  2. Review the Section 333 Guidance (PDF) from the FAA's UAS Integration Office.

    This document describes what information petitioners should submit specifically to request FAA authorization to operate a UAS in the National Airspace System (NAS).

  3. File your petition for exemption on the public docket. Instructions are available here (PDF).
  4. As of March 23, 2015, the FAA will automatically grant a "blanket" COA for flights at or below 200 feet to any UAS operator with a Section 333 exemption, provided the aircraft weighs less than 55 pounds, operations are conducted during daytime Visual Flight Rules (VFR) conditions and within visual line of sight (VLOS) of the pilots, and stay certain distances away from airports or heliports. Details are available here.

    AFTER receiving a grant of exemption, petitioners who want to fly outside these blanket parameters will be eligible to apply for a separate COA specific to the airspace required for their operation. Applications MUST be submitted through the UAS Civil COA Portal. DO NOT submit the COA application to the public docket. The FAA will ONLY accept and process complete COA applications.

    COA applications MUST include:

    1. An exemption number – corresponding to the Federal Register Docket ID for your petition for exemption
    2. A registration number – all aircraft must be registered with the FAA to be issued a COA

    NOTE: the COA application process is separate from the petition for exemption process. The COA process makes applicable FAA Air Traffic Control facilities aware of proposed UAS operations, and provides the FAA the ability to consider airspace issues unique to UAS operations. Both the COA application and the petition for exemption should be submitted under the same name/company name.

Read the Section 333 FAQs for answers to common questions. Questions about the PETITION FOR EXEMPTION process should be directed to333exemptions@faa.gov.

Questions about the COA APPLICATION process should be directed to
9-AJV-115-UASOrganization@faa.gov.

Quick Links

What is recreational use of sUAS?

The recreational use of sUAS is the operation of an unmanned aircraft for personal interests and enjoyment. For example, using a sUAS to take photographs for your own personal use would be considered recreational; using the same device to take photographs or videos for compensation or sale to another individual would be considered a commercial operation. You should check with the FAA for further determination as to what constitutes commercial or other non-hobby, non-recreational sUAS operations.

What are the safety guidelines for sUAS recreational users?

-Follow community-based safety guidelines, as developed by organizations such as the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA).

-Fly no higher than 400 feet and remain below any surrounding obstacles when possible.

-Keep your sUAS in eyesight at all times, and use an observer to assist if needed.

-Remain well clear of and do not interfere with manned aircraft operations, and you must see and avoid other aircraft and obstacles at all times.

-Do not intentionally fly over unprotected persons or moving vehicles, and remain at least 25 feet away from individuals and vulnerable property.

-Contact the airport or control tower before flying within five miles of an airport.

-Do not fly in adverse weather conditions such as in high winds or reduced visibility.

-Do not fly under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

-Ensure the operating environment is safe and that the operator is competent and proficient in the operation of the sUAS.

-Do not fly near or over sensitive infrastructure or property such as power stations, water treatment facilities, correctional facilities, heavily traveled roadways, government facilities, etc.

-Check and follow all local laws and ordinances before flying over private property.

-Do not conduct surveillance or photograph persons in areas where there is an expectation of privacy without the individual’s permission (see AMA’s privacy policy).

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