What you should know before operating an sUAS near or on airport property
Working within the airport boundary requires extra due diligence to ensure the safety of the folks on the ground and the pilots in the air. Our UAS flight teams have done several projects at and in close proximity to controlled and uncontrolled airports. Both types of airports present their own unique set of challenges. Controlled airports can be rather busy during certain times of the day and occupied with a variety of manned aircraft traffic. With good coordination between the flight crew, ATC and airport operations, UAS operations can seamlessly work into the aircraft mix for safe data collection.
At uncontrolled airports, you don’t have the added luxury of someone directing the traffic flow. Deconfliction of aircraft is the sole responsibility of those flying in the area. Although these airports typically aren’t too busy, the remote pilot must understand the traffic flow and the communications occurring over the CTAF (common traffic advisory frequency).
Based on our experience we’ve put together these safety tips to help UAS pilots feel more confident flying in the vicinity of airports.
Safety Tips for flying at an airport:
o File a NOTAM through Leidos when operating a UAS near or on airport property
o Be familiar with traffic patterns at the airport: altitudes, directions, and instrument approaches
o Coordinate with ATC (air traffic control) or the airport manager for days or times when there is less traffic
o Monitor air traffic visually and with a VHF radio
o Keep your ears open to listen for nearby air traffic
o Use LAANC or the FAA Dronezone to request authorization within controlled airspace
o Utilize one or multiple Visual Observers to help watch and listen for traffic
o Brief emergency procedures with all participants and air traffic personnel
o Utilize Flight Aware or Flight Radar to know when scheduled traffic is departing and arriving
o Have a detailed plan for how to accomplish your missions but be ready to adjust
o Aviation is seldom predictable so be flexible with your plans
o The only thing certain in aviation is gravity
Author: Lindsey Mitchell, CFI / UAS Pilot
Do you have a project near or on airport property needing a site evaluation or aerial imagery? ARE can help!