One of the standing requirements the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) established for the safe and effective operation of small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) is that they must be flown within a direct line-of-sight of the Pilot in Command (PIC). Yet some companies are already starting to look beyond the horizon by applying for a special exemption (waiver, a/k/a COA) that will allow them to operate without this restriction in place.
Only three companies; CNN, BNSF Railway, and Precision Hawk, have been granted exemptions by the FAA. All three companies participated in a year-long FAA pilot program. Small drone operators would like to receive exemptions as well.
"That is the silver bullet that's really going to unlock the potential in our industry," says Matt Dunlevy of Grand Forks-based SkySkopes. SkySkopes is pursuing an exemption to expand their capabilities toward providing various services such as infrastructure inspections.
Many operators believe the line-of-sight exemption are crucial for those who want to someday use drones for a wider variety of service missions and tasks.