UAS Operations Near Your Airport

Airport runway

Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) have seen a dramatic increase in popularity in recent years. According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), reports of pilot interactions with UAS has increased from 238 total sightings in 2014 to 780 sightings through August of 2015. With the sudden increase in UAS operations, the safety of aircraft operators for both manned and unmanned aircraft, as well as the general public, is a primary concern for the FAA. The FAA’s goal is to integrate UAS into the National Airspace System (NAS) safely.

FAA has specific rules for UAS operators to follow. These rules can be downloaded to your phone for easy, up-to-date access. In summary, the rules for recreational/hobby UAS require the operator to maintain visual line of sight with the UAS, operate UAS weighing no more than 55 pounds, limit operations to 400 feet above ground level or below, and provide notification to the airport sponsor or air traffic control tower prior to operation within 5 statute miles of an airport.

A best practice for recreational/hobby operations from a permanent location within 5 miles of an airport is for both parties (UAS and airport sponsor) to enter into a letter of agreement (LOA). This letter may include:

  • Make and model of UAS 
  • Flight parameters 
  • Flight times
  • Flight restrictions 
  • Notification procedures, if needed

The notification and/or LOA process provides the airport sponsor the opportunity to educate and advise the UAS operator of areas used by manned aircraft which should be avoided by all UAS operators to reduce conflict. The process also allows the airport sponsor to understand the location and proposed parameters of the UAS activity in the area and notify airport users of such activity. The coordination between UAS users and airport sponsors will help to safely integrate UAS into the NAS.

If you need assistance in determining suitable UAS operation areas, UAS restriction areas, or would like guidance on a letter of agreement, please contact Ron Roetzel at ronro@bolton-menk.com

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