UAV roundup 4/24: The latest in unmanned aerial vehicle news

Read all about the latest developments in the world of UAVs, including a new, expedited approval process from the FAA, and the latest on Amazon's plans for a UAV-based delivery service.

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In the latest roundup of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) news, we have a number of items of interest, including a new, expedited approval process from the FAA, some rather significant Section 333 exemptions, and some UAV news and application story headlines.

FAA eases approval process, issues more than 150 more exemptions

The Federal Aviation Administration has started using a "summary grant" process to speed approvals by grouping applications that match previously granted exemptions so analysis does not have to be repeated each time. In addition, the FAA will no longer require a private pilot’s certificate and third-class medical license for operators to use the airspace, according to the AUVSI. Pilots can now hold a recreational or sport pilot certificate and now need a valid driver’s license in lieu of a medical certificate.

As a result, the latest round of authorizations granted via Section 333 exemptions to operate UAVs in the U.S. national airspace was a large one, with more than 150 companies and organizations receiving permission to fly. Since there are so many, I won’t list them all out, but here are some of the missions/operations the UAVs will be used in:

  • Infrastructure inspection
  • Aerial surveillance/patrolling
  • Remote sensing
  • Filmmaking (Motion picture and television)
  • Photography
  • Research
  • Power line inspection
  • Agricultural imaging
  • Surveying
  • Aerial mapping
  • Sporting events
  • Search and rescue
  • Disaster response

In addition to these, a number of companies, organizations, and even some individuals, received permission to fly commercial UAVs. Check out the full list here. Of the list of more than 150 exemptions, however, two of them stuck out to me, which I will cover in the next two sections.

Amazon drone delivery on the way?

In late 2013, Amazon announced plans for a UAV-based delivery service. At long last, the company was granted approval to fly UAVs for "outdoor testing research and development for Prime Air." Prime Air would see UAVs deploy packages under 5 lbs. to customers within a 10 mile radius of Amazon fulfillment centers.

Earlier this month, on April 8, the FAA announced that Amazon has received permission to test their UAVs for purposes of developing their Prime Air service.

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