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FAA Simplifies COA Procedure For 333 Exemption Holders

On March 24, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced a new policy that allows quicker authorization to use unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) for those that have received a Section 333 exemption. The FAA is hopeful that this new process will help bring the U.S. one step closer to a final UAS rule and eventually full integration of small unmanned aircraft into the national airspace. In the meantime, this change allows companies to more quickly integrate UAS into their own business operations.

The old system required Section 333 exemption holders to individually apply for and receive a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) for each UAS operation—a process that could take up to 60 days.

Under the new rule, a limited COA is automatically granted to each exemption recipient. The “blanket” authorization allows UAS operation at or below 200 feet for any aircraft that weighs less than 55 pounds as long as it is operated during the day, in the visual-line-of-sight of its operator, and stays certain distances away from airports, heliports, and other restricted airspace. Anyone who would like to operate unmanned aircraft outside of these limits must still obtain a COA for that specific operation.

© 2020 BARNES & THORNBURG LLPNational Law Review, Volume V, Number 86


About this Author

Connie Lahn, Barnes Thornburg Law Firm, Minneapolis, Corporate and Litigation Law Attorney

Connie A. Lahn is the managing partner of the Minneapolis office of Barnes & Thornburg. She is a member of the Finance, Insolvency and Restructuring Department and co-chairs the Asset Revitalization Practice Group. Ms. Lahn is also the co-chair of the firm’s Special Servicer Team. She also serves on the firm's diversity and inclusion committee. Ms. Lahn focuses her practice on bankruptcy law, workouts, equipment leasing issues, foreclosures, real estate remedies, commercial mortgage-backed securities defaults, and related commercial litigation. Additionally, she...

Clifford G. Maine, Barnes Thornburg Law Firm, Grand Rapids, Corporate Law Attorney

Clifford G. Maine is chairman of the firm’s Aviation Law Group. Mr. Maine's practice encompasses a wide variety of aviation law practice areas. He serves as general counsel to numerous aviation organizations, including the Southwest Michigan Regional Airport Authority.

Mr. Maine’s aviation clients include some of the largest corporate flight departments in the world. He has structured numerous aviation transactions, including domestic and foreign-based aircraft purchase and sale transactions, like-kind exchanges, timeshare agreements, interchange agreements, joint and fractional ownership agreements, personal and executive use policies, FAA registrations, Capetown International Registry, and aircraft leasing transactions. Mr. Maine also provides legal counsel on tax-related aviation issues including federal excise tax planning, state sales and use tax planning, and depreciation planning.

In addition to his transactional practice, Mr. Maine regularly represents clients in complex aviation lawsuits and frequently advises on aviation insurance coverage matters, warranty matters, ongoing service requirements, and regulatory requirements.

He is a founding member and Chair of the Tax Committee of the National Business Aircraft Association and serves on the Board of Directors of the Michigan Business Aircraft Association. Mr. Maine also serves on the State Bar of Michigan Aviation Section (a section of the bar in which he acted as a founding member and past chairperson).