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Rules & Regulations

FAA Allows Some Drones to Fly a Little Higher

Effective immediately, exemption holders can fly up to 400 ft

March 29, 2016

The FAA has increased the standard altitude restriction for many commercial unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) flights.

After a risk analysis, the FAA has chosen to allow companies with Section 333 exemptions and government aircraft operators to fly UAVs up to an altitude of 400 feet, according to a March 29 press release. Prior to this authorization, 333 grants were issued a standard Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) restricting flight above 200 feet.

Starting immediately, those with the standard-issue COA can fly up to 400 feet anywhere in the country, except restricted airspace and other places that prohibit UAV operation.

“This is another milestone in our effort to change the traditional speed of government,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “Expanding the authorized airspace for these operations means government and industry can carry out unmanned aircraft missions more quickly and with less red tape.”

Before the COA altitude was doubled, operators had to apply to legally fly above 200 feet. With this new authorization, the FAA expects the number of COA applications for commercial drone operators, government agencies, and the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization to decrease, ultimately minimizing the workload for both the applicants and FAA.
However, while this may mean some drones can now fly higher than before, pilots must still comply with current FAA rules and regulations and other limitations set by 333 exemptions.
Featured image: thinkstock.com