The US Federal Aviation Administration has awarded five exemptions to allow unmanned air vehicles to fly a variety of civil operations in national airspace.

Under the terms of Section 333 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, the administration found that the UAVs in their suggested roles do not pose a threat to national airspace users or national security, and therefore did not need a certificate of airworthiness.

The exemptions have been awarded to four companies – Clayco, Trimble Navigation, VDOS Global and Woolpert – and will allow for UAVs to be flown for aerial surveying, construction site monitoring and oil rig flare stack inspections.

This follows on from exemptions awarded to seven film and video production companies earlier this year, which enabled them to become the first commercial operators of UAVs in US national airspace below the Arctic.

UAV - Rex Features

Rex Features

The most recent exemption will allow the four companies to operate UAVs weighing less than 55lbs within line of sight at all times. In their petitions, they asked the FAA to grant exemptions from regulations that address general flight rules, pilot certificate requirements, manuals, maintenance and equipment mandates.

In granting the exemptions, the FAA says it considered the operating environments and required certain conditions and limitations to assure the safe operation of the UAVs. It will also issue Certificates of Waiver or Authorization that mandate flight rules and timely reports of any accident or incidents, it adds.

“Unmanned aircraft offer a tremendous opportunity to spur innovation and economic activity by enabling many businesses to develop better products and services for their customers and the American public,” says US transportation secretary Anthony Foxx.

“We want to foster commercial uses of this exciting technology while taking a responsible approach to the safety of America’s airspace.”