Flying a drone within 5 miles of an Airport

flying a drone

The United States has around 13000 airports and about 70% of people live within 20 miles of a major airport.  If you operate a drone, you need to ensure you contact the tower (if there is one) as well as airport management if you are using it within 5 miles of an airport. The FAA has introduced a special rule for model aircraft, directly aimed at hobbyists in an attempt to reduce unsafe drone use. Drone flights can be disapproved by ATCs and airport management if there is a chance that it will interfere in aircraft safety in any way.

If you operate a drone as a hobby for recreation purposes and the weight of the craft is under 55 pounds, you need to take note of the FAA directive. You also have to operate your drone according to CBO, which is a community based organisation, which ensures that members are aware of NAS safety and guidelines when flying a model craft. This is to ensure safety in the air and on the ground.  You need to ensure that you have a remote pilot certificate with a UAS rating (small unmanned aircraft system) if you do not meet the above guidelines and your craft weighs in at under the 55 pound weight limit.

drones prohibited

You need to know where drones are prohibited (such as the White House) as well as ensure you know what is in the general area where you plan to fly your drone. You can use the B4UFLY app to show you your proximity to airports, Google maps, FAA and Smithsonian’s free maps. This will help you ensure you are not near an airport or any other no fly zone such as a prison, nuclear power plant, military base, parks and marine sanctuaries or any other area where large groups of people would congregate such as stadiums. Also, check the FAA for any temporary flight restrictions (TFRs) in the area.

If everything is in order but you are anywhere within the 5 mile radius of an airport, your next step is to contact airport operations/management and the ATC if there is one. You will need to inform them of the latitude/longitude  or address where you will be flying, your expected altitude, for how long, when you will start and end your flights,  description and quantities of the hobby craft and your contact details. Although you may not be issued with permission, you can still fly your craft once the notification has been done, unless you have received a direct disapproval saying it is unsafe or rejected for some other reason. Then you would need to fly elsewhere. Action may be taken against anyone who ignores the recommendations.

For long term drone operation near an airport, it is best if an agreement is drawn up with all procedures and recommendations listed so that there is no ambiguity and all parties are satisfied with the safety of the drone use in the vicinity. Law enforcement and the local FSDO may be called in to prevent or stop unauthorised drone flights by hobbyists. Fines can also be issued for reckless drone operation.

Be safe and ensure you follow the guidelines for your safety and that of others as well.  Happy flying!