Steve Bennett

Part 107 Airspace Authorization Request Denials

Recommended Posts

This is mostly me venting, but perhaps we can start to come up with some sort of parameters that will help us determine in advance whether or not an airspace authorization request will be denied or not. 

I had requested via the online portal to fly at this location: 34° 1'56.54"N by 117°33'30.17"W
I stated I would keep within a radius of 0.5NM from center point and limit flight to no more than 200ft AGL within flight controls prior to launch. If you look at google maps street view, there are new power transmission lines that run parallel to east side of S. Milliken Ave. that I estimate are 80-100 ft high, hence my request to fly at 200ft to give myself clearance to fly over them without GPS interference. I attached a PDF of the text entered into the boxes of my request on the portal.

I received an email from an FAA rep asking to confirm the flight radius and I did and also stated if it needed to change, I'd be willing to work with them to get the area approved. I got a reply back stating: "The bridge itself is too close to the runways and they will not approve. Denial Letter will be sent shortly. I tried to ask if you stayed over the bridge but they said no, even asked for a lower altitude (I tried)." So, kudos to the guy for trying, but it seems like the local ATC was just a blanket NOPE. I tried to reason some more with the FAA rep, asking what additional things I could do to get this approved. Reply back was: "Well, the area includes a right hand turn out off the rwy. That’s why it’s there. ATC is being over cautious sometimes, believe me. The FAA is erring on the side of safety right now." At this point I offered to stay below the tops of the transmission lines in altitude (which would mean I would need to land and redeploy if I wanted shots from the other side of the lines). This morning I was sent the denial letter stating they were unable to approve my request. The FAA rep suggested I take up the issue with my local representative (like that will get anything done). The FAA listed the following 2 items:

  1. Close proximity to Ontario Intl Airport (ONT) runways.
  2. Unable to safely mitigate UA operations in the vicinity of the runways.

This site is almost 2NM from the runways and I wouldn't be operating at an elevation where manned aircraft should be if they want to operate safely. I mean, what is the point of the request portal if they aren't going to approve requests? Or worse, ATC won't work with the pilots doing the requesting to come to an agreeable solution that satisfies everyone's safety concerns? The other thing that bothers me is they don't state what would safely mitigate UA operations in the area. How do they expect people to be encouraged to fly legally when a request is denied in this manner? I mean, if they have manned aircraft operating at 80-100ft AGL in this area, they are going to have other safety concerns to worry about.

2017-01-10_Milliken_ClassC_KONT.pdf

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I wonder if having  transponder on the drone would make a difference to ATC? I think it does make a difference to ATC that they cannot see, locate via transponder, the drone and they know that they might have to route traffic over your location.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The problem with transponders and the coming miniaturized ADS-B for UAVs (yes there is one or two on  the market, too expensive)  is the limited range for these devices and the tremendous amount of ground clutter the radar antenna has to fight with and overcome with the UAVs at maximum 400 feet altitude. The UAV would have to be very close to the antenna and have no obstruction within it and the antenna (hills, bldgs.) to paint on the radar screen.The feds are mandating ADS-B for all aircraft by 2020 but rules for UAVs have not been formulated.

ADS-B will only be useful when line-of-sight between the manned aircraft and the UAV exists. Same for transponders.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@Uaviator53 is absolutely correct about ADS-B for UAV's.  We are a long way from that reality.  I wish we were there because my ADS-B receiving system upstairs, that picks up within a 150 mile radius (an FAA inspector was really surprised I could do that), might be showing other sUAV's in this part of the world!@Steve Bennett I truly do share your pain but at the same time I am somewhat sympathetic to the contractors that are trying to work with all of us.  Many of these men and women are former ATCS (air traffic control specialists - aka - controllers).  And as you have seen I'm sure, these airspace authorizations generally are only good until early summer.  They have stated that there is expected to be a real time system in place soon (when an inspector said that to me I said "don't hold your breath" - he laughed).  I've only requested one airspace authorization thus far and we negotiated it into something I could use and they could live with. I will be putting in for another in a few days and we'll see how it goes.  But for me, and only for me, I feel the FAA is working very hard to keep everybody happy.  But, I am retired and I don't NEED to do this for income although that is my plan.  If I was in need of the income, then of course I would be much more agitated.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
13 hours ago, Ed O'Grady said:

@Uaviator53 is absolutely correct about ADS-B for UAV's.  We are a long way from that reality.  I wish we were there because my ADS-B receiving system upstairs, that picks up within a 150 mile radius (an FAA inspector was really surprised I could do that), might be showing other sUAV's in this part of the world!@Steve Bennett I truly do share your pain but at the same time I am somewhat sympathetic to the contractors that are trying to work with all of us.  Many of these men and women are former ATCS (air traffic control specialists - aka - controllers).  And as you have seen I'm sure, these airspace authorizations generally are only good until early summer.  They have stated that there is expected to be a real time system in place soon (when an inspector said that to me I said "don't hold your breath" - he laughed).  I've only requested one airspace authorization thus far and we negotiated it into something I could use and they could live with. I will be putting in for another in a few days and we'll see how it goes.  But for me, and only for me, I feel the FAA is working very hard to keep everybody happy.  But, I am retired and I don't NEED to do this for income although that is my plan.  If I was in need of the income, then of course I would be much more agitated.

"But, I am retired and I don't NEED to do this for income although that is my plan. " Same here. It's more of a hobby (don't tell my wife or the IRS);).   IMHO, as of this moment, flying small UAVs is not a full time career, yet. It can be for someone employed in an occupation where UAV piloting becomes an additional job skill (utilities, public safety, etc.) or a if a young person goes into the military and is trained to fly the big stuff (Predators, Reapers), gets out and goes to work with the big boys (Grumman, Lockheed, DHS) or civilian UAS Instructor for the govmn't.

The Army takes enlisted high school graduates and trains them as UAS operators (the school is not far from me, at Ft. Huachuca, AZ. The Air Force still wants officers (college) as pilots but enlisted can be sensor operators. Don't know about USN or USMC.  Oh, to be young again...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Gee whiz, @Steve Bennett, you handled this as best you could. You were the most flexible, real-reasoned sUAS operator the FAA could have asked to work with. I'm generally optimistic with where things are headed, but like so many others in this community / industry, impatient for change.

This is really frustrating, thanks for taking the time to share your experience here with us.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What was the timeline for your responses?  I have made 3 requests, the oldest being 9 weeks ago, with no responses to date.  Just wanting to see how close they are getting to their "email your authorization request from the location" goals.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 3/18/2017 at 11:43 AM, The Kid said:

What was the timeline for your responses?  I have made 3 requests, the oldest being 9 weeks ago, with no responses to date.  Just wanting to see how close they are getting to their "email your authorization request from the location" goals.

I've requested 3 waivers since January and haven't heard a peep!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 3/18/2017 at 8:43 AM, The Kid said:

What was the timeline for your responses?  I have made 3 requests, the oldest being 9 weeks ago, with no responses to date.  Just wanting to see how close they are getting to their "email your authorization request from the location" goals.

This one was denied in about a months time from when I submitted it.

I've had 4 approvals that also took about one month from date of submission to acceptance. A 5th has been out there since November 2016 with no response.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
44 minutes ago, Steve Bennett said:

This one was denied in about a months time from when I submitted it.

I've had 4 approvals that also took about one month from date of submission to acceptance. A 5th has been out there since November 2016 with no response.

I know that its frustrating but you just have to keep at it. The FAA is working to improve the system and make more data available to operators in order to help us get through the process. It certainly is not going to happen overnight.

 

This gives me hope and certainly looks like they are going to make a lot of information available that is going to make it easier to see at a glance where you can file and receive authorization quickly and where it will take more effort, but the process to commit all of this information into a spatial database for each airport in the US is a massive effort.

This is a small sample of what is available at this moment:

http://ais-faa.opendata.arcgis.com/

Keep the faith.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Question... and not sure where to ask it... but since this post is about FAA Authorizations... I'll ask here.

I received the following email from the FAA.... does that mean my authorization has been approved or its just to say it's moving through the system?  Any idea when I would get a final response?  Received the email on March 23rd.:

"Thank you for submitting an Airspace Waiver request to the Federal Aviation Administration. This email is in reference to the application submitted on 2/2/2017 in the vicinity of KPSP.  Your application is being processed. 

Request Number: 2017-XXXX-XXX-XXXX

Please do not reply to this email address, it is a distribution mailbox only."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I had a recent FAA encounter. 3.5 miles from airport, class c airspace. 230' agl with .2 mi radius. Commercial building imaging within 20' the entire shoot. Denied because the drone may experience a flyaway! Reduced battery life and even tethering denied. The system is not working and I can guarantee that it is encouraging flights without proper authority. This is my third denial and I have lost thousands of dollars on lost work. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@Terry Ott It seems to me that it not only depends on the distance to the airport but perhaps also the direction of your mission with respect to the orientation of the runway. I got an approval October of last year, and I am 2.2 miles from a class C airport. Flight restrictions include a ceiling of 100' AGL and stay within a 1/2 nautical mile radius of my location. The difference so far as I can tell is that I am parallel to the main runway(s) (18L/36R) 2.2 miles ESE. I've attached my Authorization and Linked the airport data.

Tulsa Int'l Airport Listing Data

FAA Form 7711-1 2016-CSA-139-P107 TUL C - Signed.pdf

Edited by Jason Clark
Typo and Tagging Terry. :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
37 minutes ago, Jason Clark said:

@Terry Ott It seems to me that it not only depends on the distance to the airport but perhaps also the direction of your mission with respect to the orientation of the runway. I got an approval October of last year, and I am 2.2 miles from a class C airport. Flight restrictions include a ceiling of 100' AGL and stay within a 1/2 nautical mile radius of my location. The difference so far as I can tell is that I am parallel to the main runway(s) (18L/36R) 2.2 miles ESE. I've attached my Authorization and Linked the airport data.

Tulsa Int'l Airport Listing Data

FAA Form 7711-1 2016-CSA-139-P107 TUL C - Signed.pdf

Interesting that they added "...between civil sunrise and civil sunset local time" in provision two. I have never had that added nor do I have a waiver filed to deviate and fly at night.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 9/18/2017 at 4:51 AM, Jason Clark said:

@Terry Ott It seems to me that it not only depends on the distance to the airport but perhaps also the direction of your mission with respect to the orientation of the runway. I got an approval October of last year, and I am 2.2 miles from a class C airport. Flight restrictions include a ceiling of 100' AGL and stay within a 1/2 nautical mile radius of my location. The difference so far as I can tell is that I am parallel to the main runway(s) (18L/36R) 2.2 miles ESE. I've attached my Authorization and Linked the airport data.

Tulsa Int'l Airport Listing Data

FAA Form 7711-1 2016-CSA-139-P107 TUL C - Signed.pdf

@Terry Ott - there is no consistency. I've got 2 totally different class C airports here in So. Cali., FAA denied my request for one and the other was approved multiple requests, didn't matter the relationship to flight paths or patterns for the approved one. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The FAA representative was very apologetic in having to deny my request. The major concern was that we may have a fly-away, not that we would be in the flight path of an aircraft. A fly away is a remote possibility and can occur outside of controlled airspace and into controlled airspace. This brings me to his comment that the FAA was considering taking away sUAS uncontrolled airspace below any controlled shelves, the upside down birthday cake if you will, as a fly away could ascend into their airspace.

I inspect building exteriors with much experience. We stay 15 feet from the building walls and rarely ascend to any roofing membrane. What we cannot provide, a safe way to inspect, is causing men to endanger themselves by hanging from suspended scaffolds for weeks on end instead of allowing us to complete better work in days. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
30 minutes ago, Terry Ott said:

The FAA representative was very apologetic in having to deny my request. The major concern was that we may have a fly-away, not that we would be in the flight path of an aircraft. A fly away is a remote possibility and can occur outside of controlled airspace and into controlled airspace. This brings me to his comment that the FAA was considering taking away sUAS uncontrolled airspace below any controlled shelves, the upside down birthday cake if you will, as a fly away could ascend into their airspace.

I inspect building exteriors with much experience. We stay 15 feet from the building walls and rarely ascend to any roofing membrane. What we cannot provide, a safe way to inspect, is causing men to endanger themselves by hanging from suspended scaffolds for weeks on end instead of allowing us to complete better work in days. 

I know sarcasm would not be productive but the sky might fall as well. Additionally, pigs could fly, the fat lady could sing, and a host of other calamities could occur. With the proper planning and a competent pilot, we could get around almost all of them (except the sky falling and then we would all be <insert your favorite descriptor>).

The fact of the matter is that we are taught to plan our missions with the possibility that things can go south, much like general aviation, and have contingency plans to overcome those unforeseen problems. Sooner or later the FAA is going to have to trust us to do the jobs they licensed us to do. Or what was the point in all the training and testing in the first place? 

<soapbox mode end>

  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The sky will fall when we sUAS operators decide that we have no FAA support OR trust and we revert back to doing what we did before all of this paper control. The question is becoming , "Should I submit for an airspace authorization and draw attention to my insignificant flight or just fly the darn thing and be done with it?" I'd rather participate in the improvement of airspace safety but not at the cost of endangering men by having them hanging off buildings because an aircraft may fly 80' AGL and within the 15' building perimeter 3.5 miles from the runway numbers.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
13 hours ago, Terry Ott said:

The sky will fall when we sUAS operators decide that we have no FAA support OR trust and we revert back to doing what we did before all of this paper control. The question is becoming , "Should I submit for an airspace authorization and draw attention to my insignificant flight or just fly the darn thing and be done with it?" I'd rather participate in the improvement of airspace safety but not at the cost of endangering men by having them hanging off buildings because an aircraft may fly 80' AGL and within the 15' building perimeter 3.5 miles from the runway numbers.

I prefer to do it by the book and beat them at their own game. Fortunately, I have not had this kind of kickback to date. It may be due to the fact that I work for a government entity, or I am supported by someone in the FAA that knows what they are doing and does it well, or maybe its just pure blind dumb luck. I hope you are able to get this sorted out and you are able to do what you need to do.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.