Aerial photography, inspection top list of FAA-approved business uses for UAS

The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) has released an interactive analysis that finds 38 types of business operations have been approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to fly unmanned aircraft systems commercially in the National Airspace System (NAS), the association said.

According to the report that analyzed more than 3,000 FAA exemptions, aerial photography received the most, followed by real estate and aerial inspection. The report also finds that exemptions have been approved in all 50 states and Puerto Rico.

The report has interactive features that enable users to view the FAA exemption data in easy-to-read graphs and gain unique insight into the current landscape of the UAS industry. Using AUVSI´s web tools, users can isolate state-specific data on the most popular applications for UAS, the most prevalent manufacturers for each type of use, and economic overviews on the companies gaining FAA exemptions.

In Sept. 2014, the FAA started granting exemptions for certain low-risk commercial UAS applications under Section 333 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. Since then, the agency has received more than 15,000 and approved more than 4,600 petitions.

AUVSI analyzed the first 3,136 exemptions approved by the FAA. Specifically, the report finds:

The approved exemptions cover 38 different types of business operations, with aerial photography receiving the most approvals with 2,557. Real estate followed with 1,969 exemptions and aerial inspection with 1,671 exemptions.

Exemptions were approved for operators from all 50 states and Puerto Rico. California received the most with 360, followed by Florida with 328 and Texas with 268.

Most commercial UAS operators are small businesses. About 90 percent of the nearly 3,000 companies receiving exemptions make less than USD1 million in annual revenue and have fewer than 10 employees.

An economic impact study released by AUVSI found the UAS industry will create more than 100,000 new jobs and more than USD82 billion in economic impact within the first ten years following UAS integration.

The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) represents more than 7,500 members from more than 60 countries involved in the fields of government, industry and academia. AUVSI members work in the defense, civil and commercial markets.