What is a Section 333 Exemption and Do I need One to Fly a Drone Commercially

What is a Section 333 Exemption?

Prior to Part 107 being enacted in 2016, for a remote pilot to fly a drone for commercial reasons, the FAA required the remote pilot to request a Section 333 Exemption and ultimately receive from the FAA a Section 333 authorization to the Exemption.

As part of getting the Section 333 Exemption, the remote pilot had to be a manned pilot, with at least a recreational pilot certificate, which meant a very high barrier of entry for becoming a commercial drone pilot. A recreation pilot certificate can cost upwards of $5,000, and a private pilot certificate can cost $10,000 or more.

The drone industry lobbied the FAA hard to reduce the requirements to become a commercial drone / remote pilot, as it was negatively impacting the growth of the drone market.

Part 107 Replaced Section 333 Exemption for Flying Drones Commercially

The FAA heard the drone industry’s concern and responded in 2016 with the release and enactment of 14 CFR Part 107 Remote Pilot Certificate Rules and Regulations.

Though the Part 107 Rules and Regulations eliminated the need for drone pilots to actually have a manned aircraft certificate, it kept in much of the aeronautical knowledge required of manned aircraft pilots. The reasons for this were many, but most importantly the FAA needed to make sure that drone pilots were fully knowledgeable about the National Airspace System that ultimately they would be flying in, and along side manned aircraft. As with manned aircraft, the FAA also wanted Commercial Remote Drone Pilots to also be aware of various types of aviation weather and weather tools, aircraft weight and balance, crew resource management, and good aeronautical decision making.

So, the bottom line, in 2018 the FAA formally repealed Section 333 Exemptions for Drone Use, and replaced it with Section 44807: Special Authority for Certain Unmanned Systems, where under it are the Part 107 Rules and Regulations.

It is also important to note that the Small Unmanned Aircraft System (sUAS) Rules and Regulations (14 CFR part 107) is only applicable to unmanned aircraft (drones) that weigh less than 55 pounds at takeoff.