On March 23, 2015, the FAA announced the “blanket” COA that would be given out to all Section 333 Exemptions for commercial drone operations going forward. Fast forward a year to March 29, 2016, the FAA announces a revision to the blanket COA to allow operations up to 400ft.
Why is the 400ft increase so important? The reason for the blanket COAs being created in the first place was because EVERY COA was geographically defined. Unless the old blanket COA, which “blanketed” most of the operations, was created, the system would have choked to death in months. The 200ft COA worked for some operations around the U.S., but there are many lattice radio towers all over the U.S. that are between 200 – 400ft. Under the old blanket COA, each of these towers would need a new 400ft COA. This bogged down the system tremendously.
The new blanket COA coupled with the new Section 333 exemptions being given out with the “super list” of 1,120 pre-approved drones means processing times for 333 exemptions and COAs will start to decrease.
It is very encouraging to see the FAA realize that an idea is not sustainable and modify it to better meet demand. Who knows if when they started they ever imagined they would have issued over 3,000 exemptions.
Note that there is more to the new rule specifically in the area of Incident/Accident/Mishap Reporting so be sure to check out the rest of the article which includes an excellent table comparing old and new.