ORLANDO—The FAA is working to approve limited commercial operations by unmanned aircraft in specific applications, such as crop spraying, that pose a low risk to those on the ground.

Four industries have approached the agency about using language in the 2012 FAA reauthorization act to get an exemption to the ban on civil UAS, says Jim Williams, UAS integration office manager.

Precision agriculture, film making, pipeline and power-line inspection and oil-and-gas flue stack inspection industries are interested in using UAS and one is close to filing for an exemption, he says.

That request will start the regulatory process within the FAA, he told the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International show here today.

Section 333 of the 2012 legislation allows the FAA to grant exemptions from certification requirements to begin incremental integration of UAS into national airspace.

"Work is under way to implement Section 333. We are still evaluating this option, the internal processes and associated economic benefits," he says.

"Section 333 work to authorize commercial UAS is just beginning," Williams cautions, emphasizing that certifications of authorization under any exemptions will be for specific, limited and low-risk operations.

Williams is not able to give a timetable, but says the regulatory process requires the first exemption request to go through a public comment period. "It can take time," he says.

Although Section 333 allows the FAA to exempt operators from aircraft certification requirements, "there will still have to be a certified pilot with specific training for that type of aircraft," he says. "We can’t waive that."