As of mid May 2015, the FAA has issued over 320 companies a Section 333 Exemption - allowing them to fly drones commercially, provided that they follow a strict set of operating guidelines. There are currently over 1,000 additional petitions for Section 333 Exemptions awaiting review and FAA approval.
How Long Does It Take to Receive a Section 333 Exemption?
With a surge in exemption applications since the initial exemption grants in September 2014, the FAA review time spiked to a high of 214 days in March 2015 (from initial application to grant) and has steadily declined to an average of 71 days for those granted in May 2015. The FAA has grouped like kind requests (with similar drone equipment and intended usage) to expedite the review and approval process.
What Applications are Drones Being Used?
The intended markets for commercial drone usage are broad and include:
- Inspection (cell towers, wind energy farms, land surveys): 44%
- Entertainment: 17%
- Real Estate: 14%
- Precision Agriculture and Farming: 13%
- Various others: 12%
Where Are Drone being Used?
Section 333 Exemptions have been granted in almost every state with the largest concentration in the southeast (22%) and pacific (18%).