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Asking for...a friend...this one is a doozy (Refer to Figure 20, area 1.) You're hired to inspect a group of structures that are under construction 9 statute miles (SM) south of Norfolk International airport. What's the highest you're allowed to fly without needing to ask for additional FAA permission? A) 470 ft. MSL B) 853 ft. AGL - this is what we have marked as the right answer, but I'm now questioning it C) 1,200 ft. MSL The tower in question is 453 ft. AGL. While the Part 107 regulations state a maximum altitude of 400 ft. AGL, you’re allowed to fly higher than that as long as you’re within 400 ft. of a tower / obstruction. You’re even allowed to fly up to 400 ft. over the topmost part of that tower. In this case, the height of the structures under construction 9 statute miles (SM) south of Norfolk Intl airport is 453 ft. AGL. If you’re flying “as high as allowed under Part 107,” you’d be flying 453 ft. AGL + 400 ft., or 853 ft. AGL. So the question then becomes, If you're flying a drone at 853 ft. AGL, what airspace would you be in, and would you need authorization from the FAA to operate there? At first glance, the structures sit in Class G airspace at the surface, and Class C airspace from 1,200 ft. MSL to 4,000 ft. MSL. But THEN, someone just pointed this out to me, if you zoom out, it looks like the whole area is actually enveloped in the thick, fuzzy magenta line indicating Class E airspace starting at 700 ft. AGL. So that means, and here's where it gets fun: From the surface to 700 ft. AGL, it's Class G airspace From 700 ft. AGL to 1,200 ft. MSL, it's Class E airspace From 1200 ft. MSL to 4,000 ft. MSL, it's Class C airspace OK, if this is all true, then at 853 ft. AGL, that would be Class E airspace. So here's where I...I mean my friend. Right, my friend. Where he is stumped When you look at the full 624 pages of Part 107 regulations and comments, it says : That's on page 11 in Table 1: Summary of the Major Provisions of part 107. Then, later in the document, one of the section headers on page 329 says: Sounds similar, but this time it says "lateral boundaries of the surface area of Class E airspace." On page 330, we see the same language: Does this mean that if we're flying vertically up into Class E airspace, like we'd hypothetically be doing at 853 ft. AGL in this question, that we would need authorization to be there? If so, then I need to re-write this question. Waddya think?
RE CLASS E AIRSPACE: Over the past Labor Day weekend I flew in Provincetown, MA, or "PTOWN." Interesting drone issues on the very tip of Cape Cod. a town that swells to many thousands of day trippers and summer residents, guests far beyond its base population. PTOWN supports a very active PVC airport, called Ptown Municipal Airport, aka "MUNI." Ptown is officially in Echo Airspace, "unregulated under 700" feet but according to the sectional: down to 500 AGL. However "unregulated" aside, the double whammy is the airport proximity, as it is very close to anywhere in town. But its easy to stay away from it as it is on the far end of "Race Point." . One restrictive bit of geography is the entire area features the National Cape Cod Seashore, a National Park, which prohibits all drone over flights, launching or landing in the National Seashore. And the sectionals clearly show those boundaries. There are sections of Ptown where drone flight is permitted, and other areas "down the road" with less restrictions. To fly "in town" the MUNI airport requires pilots to check in with a very gracious airport manager, Arthur "Butch" Lisenby. Because Ptown is grappling with drone permitting, "Butch" requests notification on planned flights as well as a heads-up to the Ptown Police Department. Early morning flights are generally permitted: hence no people. MUNI and the PD were gracious and appreciative. While I informed both "MUNI" & the PD prior to each flight, they became a tad annoyed at my frequent calls. They would have preferred a "shot list" with times and locations in one call or so. However, I was flying ad-hoc, with high winds often changing my plans. The DJI Geo Fencing had to be alerted to allow flight & became annoying, as I had PERMISSION! And I had gone to the website to register my flight plans but evidently my time frame didn't "take" & had to re-do the request every morning. OF course the big brother of DJI had no idea I was fully permitted by local authorities. LOL. Fortunately wifi was readily available to get into the DJI system, where I was already registered. Hands down, the Ptown Police were sweet, acknowledged they were trying to find a good "middle ground" to insure drones weren't over people etc. Hats off the "MUNI manager Butch and Ptown PD. and Chief Jim Golden and his dispatch PO Sara Bartholomew.
I have on several occasions tried to search the database in an attempt to determine how many Remote Pilot Certificate holders exist I'm my particular area. I can find all single engine land and up but no remote pilots. So this morning I called FAA in Oklahoma City (actually got a live body quickly) to check on this. I was told that FAA just has not gotten to the point on including that data into the registry. No immediate plans to do so apparently.