After you’ve completed your drone education, earned your sport pilot certificate and received your Section 333 Exemption, you are nearly ready for commercial take-off. What else do you need? You will need a Certificate of Waiver of Authorization or a COA.
Sounds like another hoop to jump through right? Thankfully, the FAA has provided a blanket COA which can be used in combination with a valid Section 333 at any time:
A Section 333 exemption does not give companies free rein in airspace. Each exemption includes a list of flight limitations, such as requiring a visual observer, a ceiling of 400 feet, and staying at least 500 feet from nonparticipating persons.
In addition to the specific limitations on each exemption, the FAA requires a certificate of waiver of authorization (“COA”) for each operation, which permits a drone to operate in a specific block of airspace. In March 2015, the FAA granted a blanket COA that automatically applies to any pilot with a Section 333 exemption. The blanket COA includes, in part, the following conditions:
- The drone must operate within the visual line of sight of the pilot;
- Visual observers must be used at all times;
- Operations must occur during the day and in good weather (i.e., under visual flight rules);
- The drone must remain below 200 feet above ground level;
- The drone must stay 2-5 nautical miles away from airports or heliports, depending on the facility;
- The drone may not fly in restricted airspace or over major cities.
- The drone must be registered and display its aircraft registration number as large as possible; and
- A Notice to Airmen (a notice filed to alert pilots of potential hazards) must be issued for each operation.
If an organization wants to fly outside of the blanket COA, it must apply for a separate COA for that operation. Obtaining a COA can take 60 days, which could inhibit timely business opportunities.
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