Want to Fly a Drone that Weighs over 55 pounds?

When it comes to large drones weighing more than 55 pounds, things are not so simple. Large drones are used for applications like crop spraying, drone deliveries, and LiDAR.

Anyone wanting to fly a UAS over 55 pounds will have to seek exemption under Special Authority for Certain Unmanned Systems (49 U.S.C. §44807). Section 44807 of the 2018 FAA Reauthorization Act replaces FAA 333 exemption of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012.

How to File for a Section 44807 (Previously Section 333) Exemption?

Section 44807 of the 2018 FAA Re authorization Act states:

“Notwithstanding any other requirement of this chapter, the Secretary of Transportation shall use a risk-based approach to determine if certain unmanned aircraft systems may operate safely in the national airspace system”.

Section 44807

So, how does the FAA plan on implementing this risk-based approach to ensure the safety of the national airspace system? These are some essential pointers for filing your Section 44807 Exemption:

  • Describe the design and operational characteristics for the type(s) of UAS in as much detail as possible.
  • Training of PIC and flight experience matters a lot.
  • Describe your plan for ensuring safety.
  • Specify the proposed maximum operating speed and altitude, minimum flight visibility and distance from clouds.
  • You will need to obtain a COA too. The FAA issues a Blanket COA to everyone with a Section 44807 exemption. If you wish to operate outside the purview of a blanket COA, you can also apply for a full COA. To learn more about the different kinds of COA’s and how they compare to Part 107, check out our show, “Should public safety offices get a Part 107 or a COA?”

You can also check out FAA’s document, “How to File a Section 333 Exemption” for more details on this. Once you have reviewed this document, you can file your petition on the public docket.

Section 333 Exemption vs. Part 107 – Comparison
  1. Requirements for getting a Section 44807 exemption are far more stringent

For starters, only Part 61 manned aircraft license holders can apply for a Section 44807 exemption.

  1. You can get your Part 107 in just 15 days

Drone registration requirements for Section 333 exemption holders mandate that they must use the traditional Part 47 process. Part 47 is a cumbersome and paper-based process.

Obtaining a Section 44807 exemption can take as long as 120 days.

  1. Medical Requirements– When applying for a Section 333 exemption, you MUST furnish a medical certificate.
  2. Visual Observers Section 333 exemption holders must use Visual Observers at all times.

Section 333 Exemption Highlights

  • Valid for two years.
  • Must always maintain Visual Line of Sight.
  • You need permission to fly in controlled airspace.
  • Cannot fly higher than 400 feet above the ground.

You can check out all the requirements in this FAA’s application for a Blanket COA


If you wish to fly a large UAS over 55 pounds, applying for a Section 333 exemption is your ONLY resort. Fee free to contact one of our drone attorney for assistance in obtaining your section 333 exemptions. Contact the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Law Center, at 480-389-6529 or message us HERE.