Drone waiver certificates issued by the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) are necessary documents for a drone pilot. A drone waiver is needed when a commercial drone pilot wishes to fly their drone outside the Part 107 regulations. For example, Part 107 mandates that drones cannot fly during the night. However, drone pilots may need specific photographs or surveys which can only be achieved in the night. This is when a pilot can apply for a waiver for this particular rule and be exempted from it for the duration of that specific flight.
Not all regulations under Part 107 are waivable. The FAA has listed 11 regulations for which the drone pilot can obtain a waiver:
|You want to…||Part 107 regulation you need a waiver from…|
|Fly a UAS from a moving aircraft or a vehicle in populated areas||§ 107.25 – Operation from a Moving Vehicle or Aircraft|
|Fly a UAS at night||§ 107.29 – Daylight Operations|
|Fly a UAS beyond your ability to clearly determine its orientation with unaided vision||§ 107.31 – Visual Line of Sight Aircraft Operation|
|User a visual observer without following all visual observer requirements||§ 107.33 – Visual Observer|
|Fly multiple UAS with only 1 remote pilot||§ 107.35 – Operation of Multiple Small UAS|
|Fly a UAS without having to give way to other aircraft||§ 107.37(a) – Yielding Right of Way|
|Fly a UAS over a person/people||§ 107.39 – Operation Over People|
|Fly a UAS:Over 100 miles per hour groundspeedOver 400 feet above ground level (AGL)With less than 3 statute miles of visibilityWithin 500 feet vertically or 2000 feet horizontally from clouds||§ 107.51 – Operating limitations for Small Unmanned Aircraft|
The process of obtaining a waiver can take an average of 30 days. This duration can increase or decrease based on the complexity of the operation or understanding of the waiver process. Therefore, it is advisable to be well versed in submitting a foolproof waiver application for the best chances of approval.
Understanding your need
It is imperative to understand the regulation you want an exception for. On several occasions, waiver applications have been rejected due to the lack of knowledge about the particular regulation. Read about Part 107 regulations, waiver safety rules and justifications, and all the general guidelines before submitting your application.
FAA DroneZone Login
The next step is to log in to your FAA DroneZone Part 107 account. In your Part 107 dashboard, there is an option for applying for waiver/airspace authorization. Soon, a window will open up with three types of selectable options: Operational Waiver, Airspace Authorization, and Airspace Waiver. All of the above-listed regulations fall under the Operational Waiver category. Thus, make sure to select that. Moving ahead, you will have to fill out a 3-step application form.
Filling out the application
- Acknowledgment: Under this tab, fill out the details such as Operation Title (name of your drone operation), Responsible Party (this is the person or organization who will be responsible for overseeing the entire drone operation.), Remote Pilot (fill out the drone pilot’s name here). Note: If you’re an individual drone pilot, the Responsible Party and the Remote Pilot will be yourself.
- Waiver Application: This is the most important section of the entire process. This is where you describe explicitly the details of your drone operation. Under this tab, there are 11 listed regulations. Select the regulation you want a waiver for. After selecting the checkbox, you will notice the ‘Waiver Safety Explanation’. This is where your flight details are elaborated. It is highly crucial to prepare this answer beforehand. You will have to work out every little detail including the latitude and longitude of the flight, altitude, any contingencies, UAS details, pilot details, visual observers, etc.
The FAA has listed 5 important guidelines that all explanations must include. Read about the guidelines here. This explanation should logically convey that your drone operation, despite being exempted from that particular regulation, will be conducted with the highest safety measures. It is beneficial to look up the FAA’s website for approved waivers and also the rejected ones. This will serve as reference for your safety explanation.
- sUAS Details: In this part of the application you need to select your registered drone from the displayed inventory. Since you have already registered your drone on the same portal, it should appear on the inventory. In case, it is absent or you wish to add a different drone, use the ‘Add UAS’ button to fill the details of your drone.
Confirmation and receiving the FAA Drone Waiver
Under the 4th tab, you can review your application and finally confirm and submit it. After the request is submitted, an analyst is assigned to review your waiver request. Each safety detail is carefully analyzed. During this phase, the FAA may send you a Request for additional information (RFI).
The sooner you respond to the RFI with the necessary information, the lesser time it will take for your application to be processed. Once, thoroughly reviewed, the approved or rejected waiver is published on the FAA website (here) with ample explanation in case of rejections. This entire process can take on an average of 30 days but based on the complexity, it can take up to 90 days. The approved waiver is valid for up to 2 years from the date of publication.
Here is a webinar explaining the process in further detail: