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Airport Operator's Guide to UAS

The FAA requires that anyone operating a UAS (drone) within 5 statute miles of an airport, notify the airport manager prior to conducting operations. This requirement applies to both hobbyist and commercial UAS operations. The operator of the UAS is not asking for permission, but rather fulfilling the requirement to notify the airport before commencing operations. The airport operator may object to the operation if they feel that the UAS will endanger manned aircraft operations in the airspace surrounding the airport. If the airport manager does so, they should have specific reasons, and be able to show how the UAS operation would be considered a “careless or reckless” operation.

It is recommended that airport operators work with pilots of UAS to coordinate their flight operations. Working with UAS operators makes the airspace ultimately safer for manned aircraft, by discouraging any operation, which has not been first reported to the airport manager.

The following is a list of questions, that at a minimum, the airport manager should ask:

  • Name of person(s) operating the UAS
  • Contact information for the Remote PIC
  • How can the Remote PIC be contacted during the flight operation? Cellphone number?
  • Make, model, and most of all, registration number on aircraft.
  • Ask if the operation will be conducted under Part 107 (commercial operation) or Part 101 (hobbyist), or if they have a 333 exemption or COA.
  • If your airport is located within the surface area of class E, D, C, or B airspace, ask to see a copy of their airspace waiver. (If your airport is located in class G airspace, no waiver is necessary)
  • Remind them to also coordinate with ATC tower if one is located on your airfield.
  • Where exactly will the flight be conducted? (Direction and distance from the airport?)
  • At what altitude will the operation be flown? (400 ft. AGL or below)
  • Date and time of flight operation?
  • How long will the operation take place?

Once again, permission to operate on or near an airport is not needed from the airport operator. But by asking the above questions, and gathering as much information about the operation as possible, we can help keep everyone on the ground and in the sky safe.