Government Entities

If you want to operate a drone for a government entity – such as a law enforcement agency, fire department, or any other federal, state, local or tribal agency – you have two options:

1. Follow the same requirements and operating rules for business users . That is, the FAA’s small UAS rule (known as “Part 107”).


2. If you want to operate UAS for a government entity outside of these rules, you may apply for a blanket public Certificate of Authorization (COA) which allows flights at or below 400 feet in Class G airspace nationwide, self-certification of the UAS pilot and the ability to obtain emergency COAs under special circumstances. To learn more, contact .

Who can obtain a COA to operate public aircraft?

  • Only government entities – such as federal, state, local or tribal government agencies and law enforcement – can receive a COA for public UAS aircraft operations.
  • Public aircraft operations must be conducted for a governmental function.
  • COAs are most commonly issued to public (government) entities, but are also required for civil (private) operations.
  • The FAA thoroughly evaluates each COA application to determine the safety of the proposal.
  • COAs are issued for a specific period of time, usually two years, and include special provisions unique to each proposal, such as a defined block of airspace and time of day sUAS can be used.

How can I apply for a COA?

  • Visit the FAA website for more information on how to apply for a COA online.
  • Since 2009, the FAA has taken steps to streamline the application process by transitioning online.
  • The average COA processing time is less than 60 days.
  • Expedited authorization is available in emergency and life-threatening situations.

What else do I need to know?

Users of commercial and recreational UAS should be aware that in remote, rural and agricultural areas, manned aircraft, including fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters, may be operating very close to ground level. Pilots conducting agricultural, firefighting, law enforcement, emergency medical, wildlife survey operations and a variety of other services all legally and routinely work in low-level airspace. Operators controlling UAS in these areas should maintain situational awareness, give way to, and remain a safe distance from these low-level, manned airplanes and helicopters.

Also, please read the voluntary guidelines for “neighborly” drone use , which serve to provide guidance to UAS operators on ways to balance their rights as drone users and other people’s rights to privacy.