FAA Raises the Blanket Altitude Authorization for Section 333 Exemption Holders

On March 29, 2016, the FAA announced that it was issuing a “blanket” Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA), raising the authorized altitude for Section 333 exemption holders and government operators of UAS to 400 feet.  Previously, FAA had issued a nationwide COA of 200 feet.  The new blanket COA, as with the prior one, requires UAS operators operating under a Section 333 exemption to operate under daytime Visual Flight Rules, keep the UAS in visual line of sight of the pilot-in-command, and maintain minimum distance from airports.  UAS operators must still register the UAS and meet pilot certification requirements, but by issuing the amended COA, the FAA expects to lessen the need for individual COAs by 30 to 40 percent.  Any Section 333 exemption holder wishing to operate outside the parameters of the blanket COA must apply for an individual COA, specific to the operation of the UAS.  In order to apply for an individual COA, the UAS operator must first have an FAA-issued exemption number and register its UAS with the FAA.