The proliferation of consumer-level drones — small, inexpensive, aircraft that are “piloted” from the ground and can fly themselves — open a world of possibilities, not just to hobbyists but to businesses that can benefit from an eye in the sky.
To fly a drone, even as a hobby, operators need to register drones over 0.55 pounds with the FAA. To use them for non-recreational purposes, businesses need permission through a section 333 exemption. (Here are some examples from the FAA of drones that do and do not require registration).
In Connecticut, 26 companies or people with non-recreational interests have been granted exemptions and permission to fly drones for commercial purposes, according to data through the end of 2015. Half of those companies indicated they are in some way involved in the real estate business, in which drones could be handy for taking aerial photos of properties. There are just 41 drones registered in Connecticut, whether for commercial use or not, according to FAA data retrieved March 30.
Here are the number of exemptions in each category: Real Estate (13); Photo/Film (12); Construction (5); Utilities/Energy/Infrastructure (3); Emergency Services (3); Research And Development (1); Research (1); Education (1); Agriculture (1); Manufacturer (1); Conservation (1).
(Note that since eleven of the exemptions fell into more than one category, the total adds up to more then 26).
The state DOT announced in December it would test drones for bridge inspection work.
Below, you can see all of the exemptions, as well as links to their approval letters from the FAA, which include descriptions of how each applicant planned to use the drone.
About the data
The data in this story are a subset of a database published by Bard College’s Center for Study of the Drone and transformed into a spreadsheet (CSV) format by The Verge / Vox Media. Links to exemption approval letters were compiled by Trend CT. Trend CT’s analysis is available in our data repository.