1. Review the FAA’s Guidelines for Submitting a Petition for Exemption.This website details the general exemption process for filing any petition for exemption, and it provides answers to frequently asked questions.
2. Review the Section 333 Guidance (PDF) from the FAA’s UAS Integration Office.This document describes what information petitioners should submit specifically to request FAA authorization to operate a UAS in the National Airspace System (NAS).
3. Prepare your petition for filing. Before filing your petition, review our Section 333 Checklist and Guidance (PDF) to ensure your petition contains all the necessary information. It is best to look at someone who has filed a successful petition. Go to the recent 333 Exemptions. Download a successful 333 Exemption PDF that sounds similar to what you will want. Get a docket number that looks something like FAA-XXXX-XXXX. Go to the Regulations.gov web site, search on the docket number you just got, and you will see the downloads of the actual successful proposal. You can use as a model for your own.
4. When you have verified that all the necessary information is included, file your petition for exemption on the public docket. Submission instructions are available here. Tip: At the FAA-2007-3330 main page you go to the Instructions and on the right hit the “comment now” to enter your submission.
Now it is time to wait. They say 120 days. You will get some temporary tracking number for the submittal but the next significant step is getting your own Docket Number such as FAA-XXXX-XXXX. Best to sign up for e mail updates so you can see any progress.
5. As of March 23, 2015, the FAA will automatically grant a “blanket” COA for flights at or below 200 feet to any UAS operator with a Section 333 exemption, provided the aircraft weighs less than 55 pounds, operations are conducted during daytime Visual Flight Rules (VFR) conditions within visual-line-of-sight (VLOS) of the pilot, and certain distances away from airports or heliports. Details are available here.
AFTER receiving a grant of exemption, petitioners who want to fly outside these blanket parameters will be eligible to apply for a separate COA specific to the airspace required for their operation. Applications MUST be submitted through the UAS Civil COA Portal. DO NOT submit the COA application to the public docket. The FAA will ONLY accept and process complete COA applications.
COA applications MUST include:
- An exemption number – corresponding to the Federal Register Docket ID for your petition for exemption
- A registration number – all aircraft must be registered with the FAA to be issued a COA
NOTE: the COA application process is separate from the petition for exemption process. The COA process makes applicable FAA Air Traffic Control facilities aware of proposed UAS operations, and provides the FAA the ability to consider airspace issues unique to UAS operations. Both the COA application and the petition for exemption should be submitted under the same name/company name.
Questions about the COA APPLICATION process should be directed to