FAA Issues First UAS 'Restricted' Type Certificates

 - July 28, 2013, 11:26 AM
The AeroVironment Puma AE is the first hand-launched UAS to obtain FAA type certification in the restricted category. (Photo: AeroVironment)

The Federal Aviation Administration issued type certificates in the restricted category to the Boeing Insitu ScanEagle X200 and AeroVironment Puma AE small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) on July 19, for the first time permitting operators to use the aircraft for commercial purposes.

Previously, private companies required a special airworthiness certificate in the experimental category to operate their air vehicles, a status that prohibits them from being used commercially. Federal aviation regulations Part 21.25 restricted category certification is for “special purpose operations” and allows for commercial uses such as aerial surveying.

The FAA said that issuing the first type certificates “is an important step” toward its goal of integrating UAS into the National Airspace System beginning in September 2015 as required by Congress. It said that previous military acceptance of the ScanEagle and Puma AE supported its certification process. Specifically, the restricted category certifications comply with requirements of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 that define Arctic operational areas for UAS.

Energy company ConocoPhillips plans to fly the catapult-launched ScanEagle off the Alaska coast in international waters beginning in August. AeroVironment said that it expects the hand-launched Puma AE will be used to support emergency response crews for oil spill monitoring and wildlife observation off the coast of the Beaufort Sea in the Arctic circle.

“This certificate represents an aviation milestone that could not have happened without the FAA’s vision and leadership,” said Tim Conver, AeroVironment chairman and CEO. “Aerial observation missions can now be safely accomplished in hazardous Arctic locations, which will reduce the risk of manned aviation in an efficient, cost-effective and environmentally friendly manner.”