Staff Member
Premium Pilot
Jan 5, 2015
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Western North Carolina
I see many threads here on PP (and FB) where people don't have a firm grasp on some of the most needed FAA Terminology and it could cause confusion if you're not careful. In an effort to help get more people onto the right "path" one of my friends from the FAA crafted this post to help clear up (hopefully) some of the confusion.

***Note: These are not my words nor are they "random exerts from other posts on the internet" but an exact quote from an FAA sUAS Specialist (I'll verify the actual job title with the FAA and post it here).

There seems to be a lot of confusion regarding some FAA terminology, I thought I’d clear it up here:

Exemption – This is a request made by an operator to not comply with the rule as written, but using an alternate method of compliance which ensures safety in the NAS. Exemptions are generally approved by FAA HQ. For example, the ‘333 Exemptions’ were issued to exempt commercial UAS operations from many Regulations and used the ‘Conditions and Limitations’ section of the Exemption as the alternate method of compliance.

Waiver – A waiver is issued to an operator which temporarily allows them to operate without complying with one or more portions of the Regulations. With the exception of UAS waivers (currently), most waivers are approved at the FSDO level.

Certificate of Authorization (COA) – In the UAS word, these authorizations issued by Air Traffic are issued for an individual operating as Public Use or operating under the 333 Exemption. It does not come from FAA Flight Standards; it comes from FAA Air Traffic. A COA grants permission to an operator to fly in specific ATC “controlled airspace”.

ATC Authorization – This is required prior to operating your UAS under Part 107 in Class B, C, D, or E SFC airspace. It can only be obtained by submitting your request through the online web portal. UAS operators are not allowed to contact Air Traffic Control directly to obtain ATC authorization. *emphasis applied by BigAl07*

Approval – An FAA term generally used in reference to a required manual. For example, a Part 141 manned aircraft pilot school must have their curriculum approved by the FAA.

Acceptance – The term the FAA uses when a document or manual (not required by Regulation) is submitted to an FAA office. It is the FAA’s way of formally acknowledging your submission. For example, 333 Exemptions which are film and television operations are required by their conditions and limitations to submit their Plan of Action to their FSDO 72 hours prior to operation. The FAA will accept this notification, which should not be misunderstood to be an approval.

Remote Pilot – An individual authorized by the FAA to operate UAS under Part 107.

Remote Pilot in Command – The Remote Pilot who has the final authority and responsibility for a flight under Part 107, regardless of who is operating the aircraft.

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