Benzo

Recommendation for Aviation Radio for UAV Ops around Heliports?

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Hi all, this is my first post. I started flying FPV a couple years ago and got my Part 107 cert in January. I have no airspace exemptions.

I'm starting to fly more commercially for the firm I work for, and have been getting increasing requests to shoot hospitals that we designed, and that means heliports. I'm looking into aviation radios so I can be in better communication with heliports.

Can anyone recommend a good handheld aviation radio for UAV pilots? I've been looking in the $200-$500 range but cost really isn't a huge issue. I've started listening to my LiveATC app to learn this new language that the 107 exam barely scratched the surface of, but still don't really know what to look for in a radio.

Also, do any folks use ADS-B? I currently fly a Mavic so probably too small for a transmitter, but are there good radios with ADS-B receivers built in?

I'm just getting into this and want to make sure I'm doing it safely. Sorry for any dumb noob questions. Thanks ahead of time for any help!

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13 hours ago, Benzo said:

I'm starting to fly more commercially for the firm I work for, and have been getting increasing requests to shoot hospitals that we designed, and that means heliports. I'm looking into aviation radios so I can be in better communication with heliports.

Can anyone recommend a good handheld aviation radio for UAV pilots? I've been looking in the $200-$500 range but cost really isn't a huge issue. I've started listening to my LiveATC app to learn this new language that the 107 exam barely scratched the surface of, but still don't really know what to look for in a radio.

If you are in a city or there is a regional airport with a tower you are probably going to have to talk to them, as they are most likely to manage the airspace for the hospitals. Contacting the hospital is not a bad idea either, as each hospital with a helipad has an "aviation manager" that coordinates those efforts.

That being said, I carry an ICOM A14 that you can pick up fairly cheap. I am not required to carry a radio. The FAA only requires that I be available during flight ops by cell phone. I carry the ICOM just as an additional safety measure.

ADS-B is not a requirement for sUAS at this time. There are ADS-B transceivers that are available and can be carried aboard your sUAS (http://www.uavionix.com/products/ping2020/) IF you have the spare change to incorporate it. Most as the technology matures the cost will come down and they will be more readily available and affordable for the majority of us.

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I flew this week at a bridge construction site in San Diego near UCSD. Talk about red tape! 9_9 

Caltrans (state DOT) has their paperwork they want completed for flights (both pre and post) which encroaches on my rights as a P107 pilot. UCSD has their paperwork they want completed for flights (both pre and post) which encroaches on my rights as a P107 pilot. My company has our own internal paper they want completed for policies. 3 times the paperwork and it wasn't even in Class B, C, D or E airspace!!!

Anyways, UCSD wanted me to contact the helipad located on their hospital nearby which they pointed out to me via skyvector.com. I looked up the facility manager phone on there and gave em a ring. Before I could even finish introducing myself, the person yelled - YELLED - at me: "“YOU ARE CALLING THE WRONG PEOPLE YOU NEED TO CALL SECURITY” and then transferred me to the operator. When I pointed this out to my contact at UCSD, they appreciated the heads up. When I mentioned I had already filed a UAS operating area for the site a week in advance, they felt that was enough.

I guess where I'm going with this is, don't be surprised if the heli facility lights up when you call and that the UAS notification via 1800wxbrief might suffice for what you are doing. For what it's worth, as a P107 pilot, I'm not required to contact helipads as long as I'm in class G airspace.

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I think this is a very grey area.  Drone operators are not pilots, ATC talks to pilots with realtime actionable communications.  Example - Pilot:  Camarillo tower Arrow XXXXX is three miles out, straight in runway 26 at 1500', I have ATIS bravo.  Tower: Arrow XXXXXX unable straight in 26, fly upwind over the runway 1000' turn left cross wind mid field for left traffic 26.   If a drone operator gets on the tower frequency to report their whereabouts they will be give a phone number to call, that is not a number to grant you permission to fly -- my advice would be DON"T CALL THAT NUMBER!  Better still, if the FAA wanted drone operators to talk to ATC they would have made it mandatory and there would have been a whole lot more in the 107 exam about communication.  

Regarding heliports, unless they're on airport property they aren't controlled by ATC.  Heliports usually use a CTAF frequency but they don't want to hear from you either.  In fact, generally there isn't anyone at the facility that knows any more than the fact that they have one, they aren't authorized to coordinate any flight activity, they are there simply to make sure the landing aircraft are met with the required resources.  If you call them to ask for permission or inform them of your intentions , they aren't going to know who you are and they aren't going to care.     

This is an ever changing topic so I don't know if this is still the case.  The FCC [not the FAA] restricts ADS-B transceivers in the US so they can only receive which makes them pointless.

You don't need a radio or ADS-B.  If your going to fly a MAVIC commercially then just follow rule107 if your doing it recreationally, fly LOS, don't run into anything and enjoy.    

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2 hours ago, Steve Bennett said:

I flew this week at a bridge construction site in San Diego near UCSD. Talk about red tape! 9_9 

Caltrans (state DOT) has their paperwork they want completed for flights (both pre and post) which encroaches on my rights as a P107 pilot. UCSD has their paperwork they want completed for flights (both pre and post) which encroaches on my rights as a P107 pilot. My company has our own internal paper they want completed for policies. 3 times the paperwork and it wasn't even in Class B, C, D or E airspace!!!

Anyways, UCSD wanted me to contact the helipad located on their hospital nearby which they pointed out to me via skyvector.com. I looked up the facility manager phone on there and gave em a ring. Before I could even finish introducing myself, the person yelled - YELLED - at me: "“YOU ARE CALLING THE WRONG PEOPLE YOU NEED TO CALL SECURITY” and then transferred me to the operator. When I pointed this out to my contact at UCSD, they appreciated the heads up. When I mentioned I had already filed a UAS operating area for the site a week in advance, they felt that was enough.

I guess where I'm going with this is, don't be surprised if the heli facility lights up when you call and that the UAS notification via 1800wxbrief might suffice for what you are doing. For what it's worth, as a P107 pilot, I'm not required to contact helipads as long as I'm in class G airspace.

I have found that generally for every 5-8 minutes I spend in the air I wind up spending about 4-5 hours behind a desk doing the paperwork to support it. The joys of flight Alan failed to mention in his training :-)

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Thanks to all 3 of you @R Martin@Steve Bennett@Av8Chuck for your responses!

I think my plan for now is to:

     - Notify 1800wxbrief

     - Call the heliport to share contact info. Even if no communication comes out of it, at least I've done my due diligence.

     - Buy a basic radio to have on hand when necessary. It sounds like it won't be very useful for heliports... my closest airport is PDX and I doubt ATC has the resources to deal with all the heliports in the city.

2 hours ago, Steve Bennett said:

For what it's worth, as a P107 pilot, I'm not required to contact helipads as long as I'm in class G airspace.

This is my understanding as well. Doesn't mean I don't get freaked out when I'm up in the air and hear a heli rotor.

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I feel your anxiety, but you really don't need to get "freaked" out when a helicopter is in the vicinity no more than you should when an 18-wheeler passes you on the freeway.  There big, noisy and your going to see them.  They may not see you but that's OK, you just need to maintain separation.  That's why we can't fly beyond line-of-sight.

The thing that makes the MAVIC such a great drone is its size, unfortunately that's also one of the biggest challenges for flying it safely.  You go 100' up and 50' in any direction and its pretty much out of sight.  There's a real tendency to fly it FPV but when you look up it can be very difficult to find it.  

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Skip the text in italics unless you have spare time with your schedule and go to "Last year"...

Even when I fly my UAV on my ranch in Texas where I have a private airstrip and is on apps as a "No Fly Zone" I keep one of my King KX99 aviation transceivers on my hip and scan CTAF at an airport not too far from me, as well as several other frequencies for nearby KABI airport (30 miles away) and as an "added bonus" I have several MOAs that skirt the ranch.

I'm the son of an Army Air Corp Instructor Pilot (WW2) and started flying lessons with him at age 12. So, I lean heavily in regard to the communication aspect with folks who fly fixed wing & rotary wing aircraft. The largest airplane I've flown was right seat in a B-52 (briefly) as a journalist, doing a TV segment on a training mission. The smallest airplane I flew was one I built and inspected by the FAA, back in the 1990s. My father planted some good seeds in my head in regard to flying airplanes.

I have no interest in flying a UAV commercially BUT having retired from working in television (and teaching television production at a university here) I still enjoy making videos and donating my services to non-profit organizations.

Last year, I needed to fly my UAV one mile northeast of Dyess Air Force Base (not too far from the approach/departure end of their runway) and within the airspace of KABI Regional Airport (these two regions overlap.) Two hospitals with helipads are also in this airspace. A week prior to flying, i did some research and the local FAA folks were very cooperative with me when I told them what I was planning and that I was a licensed pilot. They gave me the number of the tower supervisor (not the tower, but the supervisor) and he worked with me to set up my "flight plan". It went very well.

I also managed to get the phone number of the Airfield Manager at Dyess Air Force Base. (Being a military vet was helpful) and the folks at Dyess were VERY PLEASED I contacted them in advance. In fact, the airfield manager thanked me for doing all my legwork and planning in advance and he admitted that this "drone stuff" was new to them and even people at the command level were having meetings on how to plan for more UAVs in the air, around the base.

Soon after I arrived at my location, I made my phone calls and launched the UAV. The tower controlling the airspace knew I was not only scanning all the frequencies (Approach - Departure - Tower - Ground) and that I had a second King KX99 simply set on one frequency, "Approach." in the event something went haywire, I could quickly advise I had a "fly-away UAV" (although I have never had one in the two years since I started flying UAVs.) After I landed, I made my phone calls to the FAA guys and Dyess to advise I had completed my mission. All was well and everybody "lived happily ever after."

Fast forward to June 2017 and it appears that everything (FAA regs) have changed and what I did in regard to phone calls is "taboo" despite the local FAA folks and even Dyess AFB were very appreciative of my efforts to (as pilots are familiar with, "communicate your intentions") and all has gotten more complicated. No more donation of my services for non-profit agencies because this stuff ain't so simple anymore, despite my overkill with TWO handheld radios and knowing the aviation lingo as a licensed pilot and knowing the names of the folks responsible for this airspace here.

The photo is flying my airplane ABOVE Dyess and their numerous B1 bombers and C-140s. All was legal. And note, my website is no longer active since I am just an retired old fart on a ranch in the middle of very complicated airspace. 

 

DSC_0668.jpg

Edited by Luke Warm
added photo
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Opps, forgot to add this link in regard to handheld aviation radios. I LOVE my King KX99s. My first bought in the late 1980s is still going strong and has no "squaks" pardon the pun and they go pretty cheap now on Ebay.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Bendix-King-KX-99-portable-Nav-Com-handheld-aviation-radio-KX-99-/263036267980?hash=item3d3e2eedcc:g:SZcAAOSwDrNZQG2w&vxp=mtr

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On 6/16/2017 at 1:07 PM, Benzo said:

Thanks to all 3 of you @R Martin@Steve Bennett@Av8Chuck for your responses!

I think my plan for now is to:

     - Notify 1800wxbrief

     - Call the heliport to share contact info. Even if no communication comes out of it, at least I've done my due diligence.

     - Buy a basic radio to have on hand when necessary. It sounds like it won't be very useful for heliports... my closest airport is PDX and I doubt ATC has the resources to deal with all the heliports in the city.

This is my understanding as well. Doesn't mean I don't get freaked out when I'm up in the air and hear a heli rotor.

No-one can ever fault you for due diligence.

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On 6/16/2017 at 1:07 PM, Benzo said:

I think my plan for now is to:

     - Notify 1800wxbrief

     - Call the heliport to share contact info. Even if no communication comes out of it, at least I've done my due diligence.

     - Buy a basic radio to have on hand when necessary. It sounds like it won't be very useful for heliports... my closest airport is PDX and I doubt ATC has the resources to deal with all the heliports in the city.

This is my understanding as well. Doesn't mean I don't get freaked out when I'm up in the air and hear a heli rotor.

You can register with ENII (https://notams.aim.faa.gov/en2/) and file your own NOTAM if you have waivers or authorizations to fly in the area.

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Although its in class G airspace i've noticed that my nearby park is within 5 miles of a hospital helipad. I sometimes fly in the park to test changes that I've made to my home build UAV as its much closer that my RC model club's airfield. Do I really need to call the helipad each time that I fly. I have my Part 107 but mainly fly as a hobbyist.

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12 minutes ago, Spitfire76 said:

Although its in class G airspace i've noticed that my nearby park is within 5 miles of a hospital helipad. I sometimes fly in the park to test changes that I've made to my home build UAV as its much closer that my RC model club's airfield. Do I really need to call the helipad each time that I fly. I have my Part 107 but mainly fly as a hobbyist.

Go to SkyVector (https://skyvector.com/) and click on the Heli button in the top right of the screen (see image). From there I did a Google search for the Hospital and came up with the Airport Contact Information (image 2). Call the aviation manager and see how they want to handle it. 

We have two hospitals in the area I fly but I also fall under Class D airspace. The local tower handles all the traffic in the area and I notify the tower per a letter of agreement we worked out.  If you are in Class G, it makes sense that they know that you are operating in the area in case there is a necessity for them to contact you while you are in flight and request the airspace for immediate use. Then again, they might not give a hoot at all. Everyone is different.

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@R Martin thanks for the reply. I don't see the Heli tab on the sectional chart for my area (about 15 miles north east of Sacramento, California) but I actually noticed it on the B4UFLY app which also provides the name of the hospital.

 

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16 minutes ago, Spitfire76 said:

@R Martin thanks for the reply. I don't see the Heli tab on the sectional chart for my area (about 15 miles north east of Sacramento, California) but I actually noticed it on the B4UFLY app which also provides the name of the hospital.

 

I don't get the tab initially either. I have to zoom in and sometimes zoom back out until it appears. I think those buttons are docked and if your window view is zoomed too far in it is out of the field of view?..?

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