FAA Grants Exemption to UAS Operator for Nighttime Operations

On April 18, 2016, the FAA granted an exemption under Section 333 to Industrial Skyworks (USA), Inc., allowing for the nighttime operation of UAS.  Out of the approximately 5,000 Section 333 petitions granted by the FAA prior to the Industrial Skyworks exemption, none had permitted nighttime operations.  Industrial Skyworks petitioned for the exemption in order to allow it to conduct nighttime building inspections, which it claimed would allow it to obtain more accurate infrared readings to determine where or if heat or air is escaping a building.  In granting the exemption, the FAA placed several conditions on Industrial Skyworks’ operations, including, but not limited to: (i) restricting the operational area to within 100 feet of a permanent structure, thereby ensuring that manned aircraft will not be operating in the same area; (ii) requiring Industrial Skyworks to conduct a daytime site assessment for hazards and obstacles; (iii) requiring the pilot-in-command  to hold an airline transport, commercial, or private pilot certificate and medical certificate, thereby ensuring that the pilot-in-command has training in nighttime operations; (iv) requiring the UAS to be equipped with anti-collision lighting visible for 5,000 feet; (v) requiring the takeoff and landing areas to be lighted; (vi) requiring the pilot-in-command to complete Industrial Skyworks nighttime operations training programs; and, (vii) requiring the pilot-in-command and the visual observer to be in place 30 minutes before nighttime operations begin to allow for dark-sight adaptation.