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Contacting the Tower

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This topic might have already been covered but I am very green to this industry and simply don't know how to proceed with a few things.  First, I passed my Section 107 and am awaiting my temp certification.  Once I have that I have several places to fly for customers and I want to make sure I do things properly.  IF i find myself in a position where i need to contact a tower for authorization to fly, how do I go about doing that?  Please don't hammer me if this is a overly discussed procedure but Im simply wanting to make sure I do things the right way.

Jake

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The FAA has opened a portal on their site for UAV operators to apply for airspace permission without contacting the tower. 

Please read Alan's last comments in this thread. It says a lot on this topic.

 

 

Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 1.59.46 PM.png

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If applying for airspace authorization, how long does it take to get that approval?  I know a waiver can take up to 90 days so I hope it wouldn't take that long to get authorization to fly in a particular airspace.

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3 hours ago, Gary Butler said:

If applying for airspace authorization, how long does it take to get that approval?  I know a waiver can take up to 90 days so I hope it wouldn't take that long to get authorization to fly in a particular airspace.

From the FAA's application instructions:

Please submit your application as soon as possible prior to your planned operation. The FAA encourages applicants to submit their application at least 90 days prior to the start of the proposed operation. The FAA will strive to complete review and adjudication of waivers and airspace authorizations within 90 days; however, the time required for the FAA to make a determination regarding waiver/airspace authorization requests will vary based on the complexity of the request. The amount of data and analysis required as part of the application will be proportional to the specific relief that is requested.

Here's the tentative approval schedule for the first batch of applications. No applications have been approved as of this post on 9/18.

  • 10/3 - Class D and Class E SFC
  • 10/31 - Class C
  • 12/5 - Class B

I think overtime, these approvals will be processed much quicker than 90 days.

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I would hope so.  In my case, a class D airport covers a vast majority of the area and I imagine that real estate shoots, for example, would come up regularly and even having to wait 30 days would be way too long.

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Noticed this in a new PDF which kinda makes me more confused... Does this mean we CAN contact ATC and get prior authorization WITHOUT a waiver? 

https://www.faa.gov/uas/request_waiver/media/performance_based_standards.pdf

§ 107.41 Operation in certain airspace.

No person may operate a small unmanned aircraft in Class B, Class C, or Class D airspace or within the lateral boundaries of the surface area of Class E airspace designated for an airport unless that person has prior authorization from Air Traffic Control (ATC).

Performance-Based Standards

1. Applicant must provide a method to ensure the sUA will operate safely and efficiently within the specified controlled airspace without obtaining prior authorization from Air Traffic Control.

  1. Applicant must have a way of being contacted by ATC in case the operation needs to be terminated.

  2. Applicant must explain why the FAA’s established authorization process would prevent or hinder their UA operation from occurring. 

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"No person may operate a small unmanned aircraft in Class B, Class C, or Class D airspace or within the lateral boundaries of the surface area of Class E airspace designated for an airport unless that person has prior authorization from Air Traffic Control (ATC). "

 

I tend to agree with Alan; you must use the established procedure under part 107 (online waiver).

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11 hours ago, Uaviator53 said:

"No person may operate a small unmanned aircraft in Class B, Class C, or Class D airspace or within the lateral boundaries of the surface area of Class E airspace designated for an airport unless that person has prior authorization from Air Traffic Control (ATC). "

 

I tend to agree with Alan; you must use the established procedure under part 107 (online waiver).

If true that the online waiver is the only procedure, then what does "prior authorization from ATC" mean? Why is this section in the regs if not  to provide an alternate course of authorization? Who is willing to be our test case? I don't have anything scheduled not in Class G.

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1 hour ago, Silk Purse said:

If true that the online waiver is the only procedure, then what does "prior authorization from ATC" mean? Why is this section in the regs if not  to provide an alternate course of authorization? Who is willing to be our test case? I don't have anything scheduled not in Class G.

"prior authorization from ATC".  In my humble opinion that means the online waiver. The best answer to this question would come from the local FSDO, rather than a forum. If I were planning to fly in controlled airspace I would get clarification from them, after all, if I mess up the local FSDO are the people that I would be hearing from....

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I would argue that "ATC" means what it has always meant: Air Traffic Control which is the local controller at the local controlled airspace, ie the tower.  Now it may well be that online airspace forms are sent to the ATC in question for evaluation and approval and that's why the reg mentions "approval from ATC", but I don't think so. The FAA site gives email & phone contacts for info on part 107. I herewith volunteer to contact them & will report my findings to this austere assemblage.

,

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1 hour ago, Silk Purse said:

I would argue that "ATC" means what it has always meant: Air Traffic Control which is the local controller at the local controlled airspace, ie the tower.  Now it may well be that online airspace forms are sent to the ATC in question for evaluation and approval and that's why the reg mentions "approval from ATC", but I don't think so. The FAA site gives email & phone contacts for info on part 107. I herewith volunteer to contact them & will report my findings to this austere assemblage.

,

"Air Traffic Control which is the local controller at the local controlled airspace, ie the tower. " With respect, ATC encompasses the entire system, a rather large segment of the FAA, not just the tower. Part 107 is clear on the waiver process.

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I just sent the following to UASHelp@faa.gov.

I am the holder of a Pending Airman Certificate issued on 9/3 with a UAV rating.  My work for the most part is in real estate marketing, and the area I normally work in includes some Class D airspace.  The online airspace waiver procedure response time is up to 90 days. Real estate marketing requires a response time within a few days - a week at most. Section 107.41 includes this language "Applicant must explain why the FAA’s established authorization process would prevent or hinder their UA operation from occurring."  The established process is certainly a hindrance, and essentially precludes UAV use for real estate in any controlled airspace.  In these circumstances can I request authorization from the local ATC? What procedure should be followed? Thanks in advance for your consideration of this request.

Will advise any response.

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Thank you for that. I've lost jobs waiting for COAs ( before part 107) and contacted my US Senator's office asking for help in pressuring the FAA to expedite the process. His office called me back and wanted more information on the issue before they would proceed. I'm hoping I lit a fire on the situation, certainly hope so. Do let us know if you get a reply.

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On 9/22/2016 at 9:54 AM, Silk Purse said:

I just sent the following to UASHelp@faa.gov.

I am the holder of a Pending Airman Certificate issued on 9/3 with a UAV rating.  My work for the most part is in real estate marketing, and the area I normally work in includes some Class D airspace.  The online airspace waiver procedure response time is up to 90 days. Real estate marketing requires a response time within a few days - a week at most. Section 107.41 includes this language "Applicant must explain why the FAA’s established authorization process would prevent or hinder their UA operation from occurring."  The established process is certainly a hindrance, and essentially precludes UAV use for real estate in any controlled airspace.  In these circumstances can I request authorization from the local ATC? What procedure should be followed? Thanks in advance for your consideration of this request.

Will advise any response.

Did you ever get a reply on this?

 

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From the FAA's FAQ page: http://www.faa.gov/uas/faqs/

  1. How do I request permission from Air Traffic Control to operate in Class B, C, D, or E airspace? Is there a way to request permission electronically?
    You can request airspace authorization through an online web portal available at www.faa.gov/uas/request_waiver.

  2. Can I contact my local air traffic control tower or facility directly to request airspace permission?
    No. All airspace permission requests must be made through the online portal.

  3. I'm an airport operator and have questions about recreational UAS flying near my airport.
    Read the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the Use of Model Aircraft near an Airport for more information.

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Here in Tulsa the ATC was extremely nice.  I contacted them directly and they asked how high and how long I would be flying.  I was wishing 1.5 miles of the tower.  I told them less then 200 ft and about an hour and they said no problem, let us know when your done.  I flew for my customer and then contacted them to let them know I was finished and they responded with a thank you and a direct number to contact them in the future if I need to fly again.  I was pleasantly surprised.

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Hello All,

Got some feedback from a pilot instructor I know. His responce below.

Hi Carlos,
 
The requirement to notify an airport when operating within 5 NM no longer applies under Part 107.  It is only applicable to people flying drones recreationally.  However, if you are trying to operate within the surface area of class B (the center core that extends to the surface), you will have to request an airspace authorization through the FAAs online portal.  This can take up to 90 days.  Do you know if your planned location is actually in controlled airspace?  If not, you would not need any authorization to operate.
 
Watch this video at 26:15. The entire video is great but watch at 26:15 to answer this question directly from FAA employee. The waiver is for a special condition as he specifies.
 

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On 9/27/2016 at 8:16 PM, BDR Jake said:

Here in Tulsa the ATC was extremely nice.  I contacted them directly and they asked how high and how long I would be flying.  I was wishing 1.5 miles of the tower.  I told them less then 200 ft and about an hour and they said no problem, let us know when your done.  I flew for my customer and then contacted them to let them know I was finished and they responded with a thank you and a direct number to contact them in the future if I need to fly again.  I was pleasantly surprised.

Thank you. So some FAA staff are ignoring the requirement to use the waiver portal. Good to know.

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Follow up question on this same topic please: OK, so if I want to operate commercially with my Part 107 license within 5 NM of a Class E Airspace (and the floor of that space is 700ft AGL - although I don't think it matters now from what I'm reading above), I no longer need to contact ATC nor do I need to do the online portal to the FAA - do I have this right? This gets so confusing!

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13 minutes ago, Chickenhoss said:

Follow up question on this same topic please: OK, so if I want to operate commercially with my Part 107 license within 5 NM of a Class E Airspace (and the floor of that space is 700ft AGL - although I don't think it matters now from what I'm reading above), I no longer need to contact ATC nor do I need to do the online portal to the FAA - do I have this right? This gets so confusing!

If the floor is 700ft AGL then that is higher then the FAA mandated 400ft AGL Flight limit so you are okay.  You would be in Class G airspace unless it overlaps with another airfield.

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That is what I believe to be true, I just want to be for certain. So essentially, you could operate right at the airport of this type, even right on the field.

Has anyone used the App B4UFLY? It puts a restriction out at a radius of 5NM from that airport and makes it appear as though you cannot fly there, but I think this is really more for the recreational and non-107 sUAS's.

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You still need to check your sectional charts because the airspace right up next to the tower will typically have a 0 AGL floor and you would need to get permission from the tower.  Best to check no matter what.

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21 hours ago, Chickenhoss said:

Follow up question on this same topic please: OK, so if I want to operate commercially with my Part 107 license within 5 NM of a Class E Airspace (and the floor of that space is 700ft AGL - although I don't think it matters now from what I'm reading above), I no longer need to contact ATC nor do I need to do the online portal to the FAA - do I have this right? This gets so confusing!

Hey @Chickenhoss...there are two types of Class E airspace. Class E at surface, marked by a magenta dotted line, where you always need to request airspace authorization from the FAA, and then Class E "vertical" airspace, marked by the magenta fuzzy vignette. You do NOT need permission if you fly up into Class E vertical airspace, but the only reason you'd be doing that (unless I'm missing another use case here) is if you're inspecting a structure that's taller than 700 ft. AGL and puts you up into Class E airspace. Otherwise, you'd be violating the max altitude requirement of 400 ft.

Does that make sense? This is a REALLY important distinction and any certified sUAS operator needs to know this stuff like the back of his or her hand.

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Thanks Alan. You are exactly right - this can be a very confusing aspect of US Airspace and many people don't always understand it especially when it comes to flying in G space, then moving into E space with the floor being at 700'. As long as you stay at 400' in an E airspace where the floor is at 700' you should be ok. Right?

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