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Drone + Airport ≠ Mix

Wednesday, January 18, 2017 14:27

You wish to fly your unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV, aka drone) within a 5 mile radius of an airport with a control tower? Be sure to call the airport traffic manager for approval.

An app often used by UAV pilots is Airmap. Airmap provides a user-friendly illustration of controlled and restricted airspace in the area one wishes to operate their UAV.  D-NOTAMS, known as digital notice to airmen, are produced by Airmap and can be sent to the affected airport to notify them of your flight plan. Be careful though. Not all airport traffic managers accept D-NOTAMs even if they have the ability to receive them.  

As per our standard operating procedures during the course of planning a UAV mission for a client recently, I called and spoke with the local airport traffic manager to attain approval to fly in his Class C airspace. He asked a number of questions, captured pertinent information about our flight plan, and granted approval for the specific day, time, and location of our flight. Near the end of our conversation, I asked if he acknowledges the D-NOTAMs he receives. He does not. He requires UAV pilots to call him.  That is how he has chosen to manage the safe and respectful use of the airspace under his responsibility.

So remember, always speak with the airport traffic manager in advance of any UAV flights in their airspace to inform them of your plans, get their permission, and understand how you should work with them in the future.