FAA Part 107 waiver process

More than half of drone pilots unsatisfied with FAA Part 107 waiver process

Update: An AUVSI spokesperson confirmed that personally identifying information in the survey results referenced at the end of this post have now been made private after they were made aware of the public nature of the survey based on this article. (AUVSI worked with the FAA to conduct the study.) “It was an oversight that we’ve corrected and the information has been removed from the data set that is posted online,” said Tom McMahon, Senior VP of Advocacy and Government Relations, in an email to The Drone Girl.

The majority of drone pilots are unhappy with the FAA Part 107 waiver process.

The Federal Aviation Administration created a task group specifically with the goal to improve the FAA Part 107 waiver process, an application process the FAA itself acknowledges as being “cumbersome” and “inconsistent,” according to notes released from a Drone Advisory Council meeting earlier this month.

That task group, which included members who said they had personally experienced inconsistency in waiver application processing, such as getting arbitrary approval and denial of identical applications with
the same safety case justification, sent out a survey to drone pilots to find out what the process was like for most people.

And the survey found that most people don’t like the current Part 107 waiver process.

A screenshot of the survey responses

The survey, distributed to drone pilots through social media channels, AUVSI chapters, and other UAS pilot communities asked 24 questions related to the waiver process, and ultimately got 632 responses. Waivers are required to fly drones if you’re operating outside the scope of Part 107, such as needing to fly drones beyond visual line of sight or at night.

Of those 632 respondents, only 251 said they were “satisfied” with the application status updates provided by FAA throughout the process. 52.28% of respondents said they were unsatisfied, though 106 people skipped that question.

And here might be one clue why: it takes a long time. 10.71% of waiver applications took more than five months to get a final decision on whether or not the application was approved. Only 36.14% applications got a response within one month.

FAA Part 107 waiver process application time too long

The majority (79%) of waivers requested by people who filled out the survey were for Part 107.29 Daylight Waiver exemptions. Of the total survey respondents, 60% ultimately had their waiver approved.

The task force noted that many respondents said they never got their waivers approved, nor did they receive any comments at all back from the FAA, thus wondering if their applications were lost.

So what’s next? The FAA’s task force recommended a more “streamlined” approach. That could mean automated approvals or templates. The task force also recommend the FAA create a way for applicants to learn who reviewed their application and why it was not approved. Currently, applicants can’t ask questions or communicate with Part 107 analysts other
than through the organizational email.

You can read the full survey results here. One more odd note: at least as of publication, the survey responses were completely public, tying names to responses. That’s not great.

What do you think of the FAA’s Part 107 waiver process?

One Comment

  • I am okay with the process and the website is pretty straight forward and functional. I just recently applied for a waiver to fly over people. Other than that I have several approved authorizations and they have been coming much quick in the past several months.

    If however a pilot does not do their homework about their on flight and area or it is your first time through the process it can take a little time to get through the whole thing. I can now get through a new request in about 2-5 minutes…than you wait…uhg!!!

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