How to File for an FAA Section 333 Exemption

FAA Section 333 - How to File

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires that any individual, business or organization that employs an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) in a commercial capacity, must submit a petition for approval through the agency’s Section 333 Exemption program.

Prior to applying for FAA approval, drone operators should be familiar with the agency’s stance on commercial UAV use, and the 333 program’s operational requirements. The FAA’s website also contains a large section on Unmanned Aircraft Systems that offers a wealth of information for UAS operators.

If you’re interested in learning more about the FAA’s brief history of regulating unmanned aircraft, take a look at our original article, Introduction To Business & Consumer Drones.

There are two common routes for obtaining a Section 333 Exemption; hiring a firm that specializes in filing 333 petitions, or submitting your own application package.

Companies that advertise 333 exemption petition services are usually operated by attorneys that have an interest in the emerging Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) market, or otherwise have experience with aviation law. Pricing for complete management of the 333 exemption submission and approval process generally ranges from $1,000 to $5,000.

If you’re experienced with submitting government paperwork, such as doing your own taxes, you probably won’t have any problem tackling the 333 exemption petition process on your own.

Here are the steps needed to apply for your company’s Section 333 Exemption:

1) Read and thoroughly understand all information provided on the FAA’s Petitioning for Exemption under Section 333 web page; be sure to read the Section 333 Guidance (PDF) document.

2) Preview the FAA’s Section 333 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).

3) Preview our comprehensive assessment of Section 333 Exemption Operating Guidelines.

4) Browse the FAA’s index of granted exemptions and inspect the approved petitions that were submitted by companies that have business interests similar to yours. Do not copy these petitions, but do use them as a guideline for creating your own.

5) Once you’ve prepared your 333 exemption petition, file it in accordance with the guidelines listed here…

The FAA’s response time for 333 exemption submissions may range from approximately 60 days up to several months. Any questions about the Section 333 Exemption program, including petition status update requests, may be sent to the FAA by emailing 333exemptions@faa.gov.

Good luck, and don't forget to submit your company for inclusion in our database of drone operators.

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