“Nonparticipating Persons”

All flight operations must be conducted at least 500 feet from all persons, vessels, vehicles, and structures…

All Section 333 exemption list of conditions include this 500 ft bubble.  It pretty much makes almost every photo mission impossible to be 100% legal.  And the FAA apparently agrees as they have just relaxed the definition of whom may be considered a participating person.

The FAA altered its previously standard grant language regarding operations near people. The FAA retains the requirement that operations may occur within 500 feet of certain participating persons. This previously meant the Pilot, Visual Observer, and “operator trainees or essential persons,” but now clarifies that these operations include “other consenting personnel” that are directly participating in the safe operation of the UA. This means, for example, you can shoot real-estate photos with the realtor and homeowner nearby, as long as they are “consenting personnel”.

Also, the FAA has previously authorized Section 333 grantees to use only the aircraft identified in the petitioner’s application. If these entities later wanted to use additional aircraft, they were required to file an amendment to the Section 333 petition and wait for FAA grant. In contrast, the FAA’s most recent Section 333 grants include the following language:

The operator is authorized by this grant of exemption to use any aircraft identified on the List of Approved UAS under Section 333 at regulatory docket FAA-2007-3330 at www.regulations.gov, when weighing less than 55 pounds including payload. Proposed operations of any aircraft not on the list currently posted to the above docket will require a new petition or a petition to amend this exemption.

This will speed up the exemption grant process somewhat. There are some 1,100 models of aircraft in the FAA list.

Here’s my non-lawyer opinion. Your exemption letter are the rules that you may operate under.  You may not fly with the relaxed definition of participating personnel or expanded aircraft list before the FAA amends your exemption, and that won’t happen unless you petition for an exemption.



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