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USA Part 107 Flights in Controlled Airspace

Discussion in 'Certified UAV Pilots' started by Dave Armbrust, Sep 2, 2016.

  1. Dave Armbrust

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    There has been some confusion on how approval is granted for flights in controlled airspace.

    Part of the confusion is with the new Air Traffic Organization Policy FAA Order JO 7200.23 just published August 19, 2016. Note: This new order does NOT go into effect until October 3, 2016.

    I just talked to our tower chief at Sarasota Bradenton International Airport regarding the current and new procedures. While she had some of the dates wrong (10/31 rather than 10/3 and 8/31 instead of 8/29 for Part 107) and regulation references wrong (133 instead of 333 for the old waivers), she was able to confirm what I have stated in another thread.

    If you have a flight prior to 10/03 you will just need to call the tower at least 30 minutes before the flight with the location and the altitudes you would like to fly. Once you are onsite you just call the tower and let them know you are ready to start. If traffic permits you will then be granted authorization for your flight, of course all of the other requirements for Part 107 still apply. It is possible they could give you a delay if there is traffic.

    After 10/3 the process will be different. You will need to make your airspace authorization request through the FAA uas website: Request a Waiver/Airspace Authorization – Small Unmanned Aircraft System (sUAS) It is this new process that has created the most confusion. This is the same webpage and request form that is used for requesting a waiver from some of the Part 107 regulations. It does state that the request for waiver/airspace authorization can take 90 days and that you should make your request at least 90 days in advance.

    What they will do with your request is compare the request to the airspace map that the airport has already prepared called the UAS Facility Maps (UASFM) to evaluate Part 107 requests based on the location and altitudes authorized by the facility. If requests are authorized using the UASFM, no facility coordination is required and the airspace authorization will be granted. This will most likely be fully automated and you should receive your authorization quickly. Probably within a couple of days if not sooner. With authorization you will still call the tower and they can still reject your request if traffic does not allow it. If Headquarters is unable to authorize the request using the UASFM, they must coordinate with the facility. I am also under the impression that they will do this coordination for you, but of course their could be some additional questions, comments or suggestion, which is likely to delay the approval.

    While the UASFM map is not available to us (it is mainly electronic) Sarasota tower chief explained that she mapped it based on distance from the airport and in 100' increments. I specifically asked her if it was completed as I intended to request a meeting prior to her finalizing the map. Unfortunately this has already been done.

    I also asked her about operation on the airport itself. (I would like to video some of my school's aircraft as they taxi out and take off.) This too was not a problem, prior to 10/03 I just need to call the tower for approval. After 10/03 I need to go through the web site and the procedures.

    Why the new procedures? Simple, they are expecting a lot of requests and they are doing their best at streamlining and automating the process. I am very optimistic about the current and new process and encourage others to give it a try rather than a cry.

    The biggest problem I see is not the FAA approval process, it is DJI mapping that does not take into consider airspace at all or the UASFM map. While I would like to film my school's aircraft taxiing and taking off, I know that DJI will not allow me to even take off. I fear they will be far less responsive than the FAA.
     
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  2. ADT

    ADT

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    Thanks for gathering this information. It is really helpful to know and (as someone who does not have the flight background that you have) it is greatly appreciated.

    I wish that there was a way to view the UAS Facility Maps (UASFM) in advance. That would make planning a lot easier for us commercial guys. Maybe that will happen at some point in the future.
     
  3. Dave Armbrust

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    I get the impression that the maps are digital rather than something that can be printed.

    My suggestion is to make your request for a specific location as small as is practical and keep the altitude as low as is practical as well. This way you are less likely to bump into the UASFM. If you do go into this area it will require more coordination, but I suspect they will do their best to accommodate you.

    Yes, something like the B4UFLY app for Part 107 operators would be great.
     
  4. Jason1234

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    That other thread you mention is here, where I responded at length about why this is not correct. If your local control tower is ignoring the current guidance (AC 107-2), then so be it. But calling the tower is not the current process.

    In addition to the information I posted in the other thread, I just spoke to someone at the FAA UAS hotline, and they had some more news for me. They are processing airspace authorizations in chunks. They expect to grant both authorization and waivers for 107.41 based on airspace Class. Here is the current schedule:

    Class D: 10/3/16 (includes surface E)
    Class C: 10/31/16
    Class B: 12/5/16

    How they process authorizations submitted after those dates is anyone's guess. I'm wondering if and when they will start sending out follow up questions to any requests already submitted.
     
  5. ADT

    ADT

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    Can we apply for a waiver if our Cert is still pending? If there is going to be a back log of them, I'd like to apply now while I am still waiting for my confirmation through IACRA.
     
  6. Jason1234

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    Only if you have a temporary certificate. In that case, enter Pending in the certificate number field.

    Instructions for the form are here: https://www.faa.gov/uas/request_waiver/media/instructions.pdf
     
  7. Figbar

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    This is great information and contrary to the other thread dealing with this subject. I very much appreciate you taking the time to give us your input. Again, I'm seeing all kinds of "drone attorneys" stating that they need to be involved to assist us in getting permission to fly in controlled airspace. Just what we need. This is good information and sounds very reasonable to me. Up to this point, the FAA has just had to deal with manned aircraft and related issues....this UAS stuff really is disruptive technology.
     
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  8. Jason1234

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    If you look closely, most of these attorneys are talking about section 333 exemptions. I'm sure attorney are or will be popping up to help with 107 waivers. I think that depends on what we see in terms of approvals and rejections. If it truly requires an experienced wordsmith to get a waiver approved, we might see an influx of shysters, with some legit attorneys offering a helpful service.

    Sent from my SAMSUNG-SM-G900A using Tapatalk
     
  9. Jason1234

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    I truly believe the FAA wants to move toward an efficient and reasonable process for simple airspace authorizations. I'm not sure a central clearinghouse is a workable solution in the long term.

    Ideally the regulation would change to a simple notify system where you can just notify via web form of an operation, with perhaps different limits for different sectors or distances to an airport.

    It wouldn't be too technically difficult to implement a map based notification system. You drop a pin on a map, it tells you the maximum operating altitude (if that sector allows flight) and you put in you details (cert number and UAS registration number). Simple. Done. This could be done via app or web browser.

    Sent from my SAMSUNG-SM-G900A using Tapatalk
     
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  10. Figbar

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    I agree..however, I have seen several attorneys that are now advertising their expertise to get waivers to fly in uncontrolled airspace...saying that this is indeed a waiver we need. I'm figuring if we, as certified remote pilots, being able to navigate and pass this certification process, ought to be able to apply for, and receive permission to fly in this airspace.

    Thanks!
     
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  11. Jason1234

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    That's part of the confusion here. There are airspace authorizations and waivers available. The web form for the current process distinguishes between the two with check boxes. However, there is no discernable distinction between the two at this time.

    The fact that there are two options is what gives me hope that they already have an idea of what direction the process will go. I expect that a waiver will become a blanket authorization to operate in a particular airspace (defined by class and airport(s)). An authorization will become a rubber stamp approval.

    The waiver process should be for longer term, more loosely defined operations. For example, CNN may want to operate in and national class C or D for breaking news. A local real estate agent or news crew may need to operate frequently within their local airport airspace.

    An authorization should be for short term, "I want to fly now" for a specific purpose. For example, you travel to another city to do a photo shoot for a client. You shouldn't need a heavily vetted waiver that takes months of planning.

    It would be nice if they clearly identified the purpose and difference between authorization and waiver of Part 107.41.

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  12. Dave Armbrust

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    Jason,

    What you describe is pretty close to what we should expect to occur.

    The distinction between a waiver and airspace authorization is only confusing in that they chose to do both on a single webpage.

    A waiver is a case where you want to not follow one of the specific 107 regulations. As an example night flight. Part 107 say you may not fly at night. You can request a waiver for this, but you will have to take extra precautions that you will need to explain. These seem to be granted for a four year period.

    Airspace authorization is just that. Authorization to fly within controlled airspace for a specific area for a specific time.

    They waivers and airspace authorization are completely different items.

    What does make a bit more confusing is the fact that you can request a waiver to 107.41 which is the reg that states you must have ATC authorization to fly in controlled airspace.

    An example could be if your backyard is within controlled air space and you would like to be able to do test flights without going through the ATC authorization process. That would require a waiver rather than Airspace authorization.

    Keep in mind that to be granted any 107 waiver you need to have a plan as to how you would provide a similar level of safety that the regulation would have provided.

    It is in this area of word smithing that the UAS lawyers will provide the correct wording, for a fee. There is a much cheaper approach in that you can look at waivers currently granted and base your plan off of these approved plans. Of course if your plan is rejected then you must resubmit which restarts the 90 day clock. Some may find the lost revenue waiting for the waiver more expensive than the attorney's fee.

    We are in the very early day of regulated UAS operations, which the FAA clearly recognizes. That is why they wrote into the regulation (107.205) the ability to waive any of the current regulations. The current regulation are designed to enable us rather prevent us from conducting safe UAS operations.
     
  13. ADT

    ADT

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    Dave,

    Have you been able to see any of the waiver applications? On the FAA page it shows the approval/denials, but it doesn't show what the individual wrote to request the waiver. This is different than the 333 application where people were able to read through everything that was submitted.

    Also, I am hoping (but trying to remain realistic) they they will be a point where we can get a blanket airspace waiver for an extended period of time. Basically, I would like to be able to fly in Class D space, up to 200' as long as I am not closer than 2 miles to the airfield (or something like that). For real estate work, that would make things a lot easier since jobs are usually requested on short notice.
     
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  14. Jason1234

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    An authorization can be requested for up to 4 years using the current process.

    As you said, the form is the same.

    I still do not see any difference at this time.

    While the two might become clearer in purpose and process at a later date, today there appears to be no distinction.

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  15. Dave Armbrust

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    I have not seen a link to the requests, but I suspect they are out there and we probably access them same way we did the 333 waivers. Regardless, you can read the conditions of the grants and frame your request accordingly.

    I suspect we will only be able to get a waiver for a specific location, radius and altitude. You may be able to get it for a specific location, such as your back yard, for up to four years.

    It will all be based on the UASFM. If this shows no conflict, yet within controlled airspace then it will be granted.

    If there is a conflict then coordination will be required. If the tower facility rejects the request they will have to explain why it is impossible to grant the request. They can not just say "no".

    Seems like the FAA is really trying to make this work, but that is what congress mandated. The FAA have really designed in a lot of flexibility for this rapidly growing and changing technology.
     
  16. Kilinahe Media

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    Ok. So I've got a question then. I'm going to be down in Hana Maui for the next few days and wanted to fly. It's in class E airspance 700 agl. Do I contact the atc/fss for permission or fill out this waiver?
     
  17. Jason1234

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    If it's Class E at 700 AGL you won't be flying that high (right?) that means it's Class G under the Class E and no authorization is necessary. Fly away if you are Part 107 certificated. If your a hobbyist, you still need to notify the ATCT and the airport owner if you are within 5 miles (includes all airports, heliports, seaports).

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  18. SanCap

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    Every Approved 107 waiver that I clicked on referenced a 333 exemption. I think they are catching up with waivers applied for under a 333 and allowing them to be used on 107 waivers.
     
  19. Kilinahe Media

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    Sweet! Didn't think it qualified as class G! No I won't be that high up. That makes sense though...i just figured that since it was in class e airspace I'd still need permission...but it is 700 agl so I'm all clear! Thanks!
     
  20. Jason1234

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    Magenta gradient means Class E goes from 700-17,999. Magenta dashed line it starts at surface, usually around a Class D to provide IFR approaches.

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