Okay– I’m starting to see more and more activity for the FAA 333 Exemption and want to throw some thoughts in there– especially to help those UAV operators who might consider plopping down some fat stacks to companies offering to help them with their 333 exemption.
Now I’ll preface by mentioning it’s all changing anyway. But right now, if you want to legally operate a drone for commercial purposes, you have to either have a commercial pilots license, or you have to ask the FAA to give you exemptions from those rules.
To be the Pilot in Charge of a UAV, even with a FAA 333 Exemption, the PIC must have some level of pilot’s license. Some people (I know a few), have applied for and gotten the 333 exemption without having a pilot’s license. What this means, is that if they want to be legal, they must find a PIC to fly their drone for them.
So let’s talk about the pilot’s license. You can get a Sports Pilot License– it requires 20 hours minimum. Probably cost you about $4,000 to $5,000 and will take you about 3 months depending on how often you take lessons. Search the nearby airport for lessons and you’ll come up with some choices.
When I started to chase a FAA 333 Exemption, I did some quick research. I found some firms offering me help for the paltry sum of $5,000 or $6,000. I found a couple “budget” ones for $1,500. It was a Saturday. I sat down at my computer thinking “surely it can’t be that expensive?”
I found someone offering a how to Youtube video for $10. I paid that. I also researched some other successful petitions. After two or three hours of very intense work, I hit the “submit” button to the FAA. It took months and months later, but finally I received my FAA 333 Exemption. So my drone friends, you can do it yourself, or if you don’t want to spend the three hours, you can pay those fat stacks to someone who will assist you. Heck, pay me a bargain grand, and I’ll give you some advice.
Honestly, if you’re thinking about applying now, it’s probably too late. It might take 8 months for the FAA to grant you that exemption and by then, there will probably be a “UAV License” program. Plus, you need that pilot’s license.