Short list of things a 333 operator canNOT do under their stock 333 and blanket COA

I was recently asked, “What can a drone operator with a 333 NOT do when flying for cinematography purposes?”  Here is a partial list of some of the things that a 333 operator cannot do.  These are the most common types of violations I see.


Under the current 333 exemptions being given out, a drone operator cannot:

  • Fly at night (flying after civil twilight which is roughly around 20 minutes after sunset).
  • Fly within 500ft of non-participating and unprotected individuals, unless they have closed-set approval and those individuals are considered “participating” (actors) under the motion picture manual.
  • Fly aircraft weighing more than 55 pounds
  • Allow the drone pilot to fly when he does not have an FAA sport pilot license or higher license
  • Fly a drone while in a moving vehicle
  • Fly a drone that is not listed on their exemption
  • Fly a drone that is not registered


Under their blanket certificate of authorization or waiver (COA), a drone operator cannot:

  • Fly unless they have filed a notice to airman AND waited 24 hours
  • Fly over 200 feet above the ground
  • Fly within 5 nautical miles of an operational towered airport
  • Fly within 3 nautical miles from an airport having a published instrument flight procedure, but not having an operational control tower; or
  • Fly within 2 nautical miles from an airport not having a published instrument flight procedure or an operational control tower; or
  • Fly within 2 nautical miles from a heliport, gliderport or seaplane base; or
  • Fly near Power Plants, Electric Substations, Dams, Wind Farms, Oil Refineries, Industrial Complexes, National Parks, The Disney Resorts, Stadiums, Emergency Services, the Washington DC Metro Flight Restricted Zone, Military or other Federal Facilities.


Keep in mind that the 333’s being given out give these restrictions. They can be changed if an “equivalent level of safety” is shown.  Also, an individual can get a COA to fly near an airport, but the operator must put in an application that is site specific to the airport.  If you don’t like these restrictions, you can try and change them. They are NOT set in stone.


Jonathan Rupprecht

Mr. Rupprecht is an aviation attorney who focuses on drones. Read more about his background as a commercial pilot, flight instructor, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University grad, and legal author. He has had media appearances on Forbes, Newsweek, Politico, NPR, Marketwatch, The Independent, Motherboard, and other sources. Feel free to send Jonathan a message here.