While the FAA has eased up on restrictions with its proposed new rules, “333” exemptions issued under the current regulations still require the operator to have a pilot’s license. This does not seem to be holding up companies from wanting to deploy drones; more than 2,500 requests have been filed. Driven by anticipation of the FAA new rules expected to be issued later this year or in 2016, investment in companies providing drone hardware and services to contractors is also growing. According to a June 19 article in Bloomberg Business, over $210 million has been raised in 2015 by drone businesses including AeroCine, Airware, DroneDeploy, Skycatch, Kespry and SZ DJI Technology Co. DJI, according to the article, raised $75 million in May giving it a valuation of $8 billion.
The rate of FAA-issued exemptions is also accelerating. To date, 664 exemptions have now been issued. Since our last report on May 14, we counted more than 200 exemptions issued to construction firms, utilities or industry service providers. This includes those specifically offering mapping, surveys, imaging, data collection and inspections for construction, engineering, geospatial analysis, multi-spectral imagery or photogrammetry services. Our count did not include companies that listed their operations for other industries or generically as “aerial photography,” although some of these firms may intend to offer services to contractors as well. From viewing recent exemptions, it appears the turnaround time from application to written exemption is now less than 90 days.
Click here to view the 200 construction and related industry exemptions granted since May 11, including instructions to access individual exemptions.