As an airport manager, you may be getting questions from your local zoning administrator or other local officials on Unmanned Aircraft Systems or drones. This article is not meant to be the bible on UAS, but it is intended to provide airport operators with resources to additional information that is available on UAS operations. There are three different types of UAS operators: public operations (governmental), civil operations (non-governmental) and model aircraft (hobby or recreational).
Airport operators are most likely to come into contact with model aircraft or recreational UAS operators. The following website will provide information on safety guidelines for recreational users. According to the FAA website, the following are model aircraft operation limits:
- The aircraft is flown strictly for hobby or recreational use.
- The aircraft is operated in accordance with a community-based set of safety guidelines and within the programming of a nationwide community-based organization.
- The aircraft is limited to not more than 55 pounds unless otherwise certified through a design, construction, inspection, flight test, and operational safety program administered by a community-based organization
- The aircraft is operated in a manner that does not interfere with and gives way to any manned aircraft
- When flown within five miles of an airport, the operator of the aircraft provides the airport operator and the airport air traffic control tower… with prior notice of the operation.
- The aircraft is flown within visual line sight of the operator (additional information for model aircraft operators). Non-governmental UAS operators are those operators flying for hire. If UAS operators are flying for hire, they must receive a special certification (additional information for civil UAS operators).
Public aircraft operations are limited to certain government operations within U.S. airspace and are the least likely of the three UAS operations to occur near your airport (additional information about public UAS operations).
The FAA has proposed a framework of regulations that offers safety rules for small UAS (under 55 pounds) conducting non-recreational operations. The rule would limit flights to daylight and visual-line-of-sight operations. It also addresses height restrictions, operator certification, optional use of a visual observer, aircraft registration and marking, and operational limits. The new rules would not apply to model aircraft. However, model aircraft operators must continue to satisfy all of the criteria specified in Sec. 336 of Public Law 112-95, including the stipulation that they be operated only for hobby or recreational purposes. The 60-day public comment period for the Small UAS Notice of Proposed Rulemaking closed on April 24, 2015 but a final rule has yet to be implemented.
According to the FAA, pilot reports of unmanned aircraft have increased dramatically over the past year, from a total of 238 sightings in all of 2014, to more than 650 as of August 9, 2015.
If you still have questions, the Milwaukee FAA Flight Standards District Office may be able to assist with your question.
Authored by Charity Speich, Chippewa Valley Regional Airport Director. Located near Eau Claire, the Chippewa Valley Regional Airport is your ticket to hassle-free, friendly travel. CVRA offers all the airport service amenities without the hassle, crowds and long waits that frustrate travelers in larger facilities. Flying with CVRA saves you time, parking costs, overnight hotel stays and mileage; those travel expenses that can add up quickly.