No Decent Free Airspace Map - Free Alternative to Skyward?


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I'm beside myself regarding the lack of a comprehensive, easy to use, free airspace map for Drone Operators, other than Skyward which nows costs money.

Here's what I'm looking for.... Enter an address and tell me (a) any restrictions that apply to a Part 107 Drone Operator flying under 400 feet, and (b) if the location is within the FAA Facilities Map which *supposedly* has a faster authorization process.

So let's take a look at a few common tools and their short comings...

FAA's own map - https://faa.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=9c2e4406710048e19806ebf6a06754ad (why the ridiculously long URL I don't know but hey, it's the government so what do I expect.)

What's the problem with it?  When you turn on all the different airspace classes (B, C, D) it shows you areas on the map for those classes but where the lower altitude limit is above 400ft which therefore wouldn't apply to drones.  For example look at Downtown San Francisco, CA.  Turn on Class B layer (upper right corner layer icon) and it will show downtown as being in Class B airspace but click on downtown and you'll find it's only down to 700 feet!

Airmap - https://app.airmap.io/

Look at Las Vegas, NV.  Select Part 107.  It shows much of the outlying area as not being in controlled airspace such as the Callagan Military Medical Center at  4700 N Las Vegas Blvd, Nellis AFB, NV 89191.  This is actually in Class B airspace with a lower limit of 0 ft.  But airmap doesn't tell you that.  In fact a HUGE area outside of Vegas is all in Class B down to the ground.  Feel sorry for commercial pilots trying to fly in the Vegas area!  In addition there are areas where Airmap is missing the facilities map - such as Seattle, WA.

Know Before You Fly - http://knowbeforeyoufly.org/air-space-map/

Try the same address for the medical center.  This one also doesn't show it's in Class B.  And if you click on it it gives you a hobby warning that you are within the Airforce Base airspace.

Skyward doesn't show the FAA Facilities Map.  

So essentially as far as I have found, there is no accurate airspace map for Drone Operators that shows you both the Facilities map areas and the controlled airspace for below 400 ft.

What the hell is going on?  How can these companies put services online to the public that aren't accurate?  I almost flew in a controlled area the other day relying on Airmap!

 

 

 

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7 hours ago, Jazee said:

I'm beside myself regarding the lack of a comprehensive, easy to use, free airspace map for Drone Operators, other than Skyward which nows costs money.

Here's what I'm looking for.... Enter an address and tell me (a) any restrictions that apply to a Part 107 Drone Operator flying under 400 feet, and (b) if the location is within the FAA Facilities Map which *supposedly* has a faster authorization process.

So let's take a look at a few common tools and their short comings...

FAA's own map - https://faa.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=9c2e4406710048e19806ebf6a06754ad (why the ridiculously long URL I don't know but hey, it's the government so what do I expect.)

What's the problem with it?  When you turn on all the different airspace classes (B, C, D) it shows you areas on the map for those classes but where the lower altitude limit is above 400ft which therefore wouldn't apply to drones.  For example look at Downtown San Francisco, CA.  Turn on Class B layer (upper right corner layer icon) and it will show downtown as being in Class B airspace but click on downtown and you'll find it's only down to 700 feet!

Airmap - https://app.airmap.io/

Look at Las Vegas, NV.  Select Part 107.  It shows much of the outlying area as not being in controlled airspace such as the Callagan Military Medical Center at  4700 N Las Vegas Blvd, Nellis AFB, NV 89191.  This is actually in Class B airspace with a lower limit of 0 ft.  But airmap doesn't tell you that.  In fact a HUGE area outside of Vegas is all in Class B down to the ground.  Feel sorry for commercial pilots trying to fly in the Vegas area!  In addition there are areas where Airmap is missing the facilities map - such as Seattle, WA.

Know Before You Fly - http://knowbeforeyoufly.org/air-space-map/

Try the same address for the medical center.  This one also doesn't show it's in Class B.  And if you click on it it gives you a hobby warning that you are within the Airforce Base airspace.

Skyward doesn't show the FAA Facilities Map.  

So essentially as far as I have found, there is no accurate airspace map for Drone Operators that shows you both the Facilities map areas and the controlled airspace for below 400 ft.

What the hell is going on?  How can these companies put services online to the public that aren't accurate?  I almost flew in a controlled area the other day relying on Airmap!

The problem is that you are relying on the unreliable. Piss poor planning yields piss poor results.

NOTAM filing (only with CoA) - https://notams.aim.faa.gov/en2/

Aviation Weather - https://www.1800wxbrief.com/

Graphical Weather Forecast - https://www.aviationweather.gov/gfa

Predictive Weather Forecasts - http://www.iweathernet.com/interactive-radar

Airport Information & Sectionals - https://skyvector.com/

Flight Planning Tools and Sectionals - https://www.iflightplanner.com/

VFR Raster Charts (if you have the software to use them) - https://www.faa.gov/air_traffic/flight_info/aeronav/digital_products/vfr/

Space Weather Predictions (GPS outlook) - http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/communities/aviation-community-dashboard

FAA ESRI Cloud - http://uas-faa.opendata.arcgis.com/

Check NOTAMs - https://pilotweb.nas.faa.gov/PilotWeb/

Check ACTIVE TFRs - https://pilotweb.nas.faa.gov/PilotWeb/

Check SUA - https://sua.faa.gov/sua/siteFrame.app

Are these all the links you could be using? No. These are what I typically use to plan flights usually starting a week in advance through the actual day of flight. Skyvector is good for sectionals and airport contact info as well as radio frequencies used and phone numbers for points of contact. Additionally, the World VFR sectionals, area VFR sectionals, and area Helicopter sectionals are great. iFlightPlanner gives you the option of overlaying the sectional airspace over a satellite image which helps to pinpoint your area of interest. 

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The subject of the thread I started was just regarding identifying whether or not you need to apply for FAA Authorization at a given location and if that location is in the Facilities Map for *supposedly* expedited approval.

While informative, only the last 4 links in your post are therefore relevant to this topic of this particular thread.

Furthermore, my intent was identifying one map provider that could provide both FAA Part 107 Restriction info, and show the current Facilities Map.  None of the links you posted do that with the exception of the ESRI Cloud.  You can actual dig very deep to find filtering capability to set filters to only show airspace classes that apply down to 0 elevation.  Anything above that is typically 700 or 1200 minimum which doesn't apply to drones.  This took some playing around to discover but it's a very very clunky solution.

I don't know about you, but to me, time is money.  So I'm always looking for the best toolset to get the job done most efficiently (and safely).  I don't derive pleasure from going to a dozen website to get information that I feel I should be getting from 4.  Or in the case of airspace restrictions, from *1* map site.

 

Edited by Jazee
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Thanks for links to all of these resources.

Here's some food for thought, I know some people aren't going to agree with this and I'm fine with that.  I certainly don't want to offend anyone.  @R Martin, this is not a reply to your post its just that your post is an example of the point I'd like to make.

No one should be expected to go through all of this to plan a commercial drone flight.  There is no reason why we can't have one easy to use web page that we can log into at the time of our flight for our situational awareness.  Just drop a pin in the location we intend to fly on the map and all relevant information is provided - TFR's NOTAM's, weather, airspace, etc.  

But the data has to be accurate, sorry, AirMap is a joke, and why should I have to pay Skyward for data as a taxpayer I've already paid for?  The FAA is the regulatory body that defines the airspace, it isn't changing and its already in the public domain.  They already have www.1800wxbrief.com/, and the other resources that @R Martin  provided, how difficult can it be to integrate this data into a single interactive webpage!?

The whole concept of "flight planning" for a drone that can't fly BLOS, aren't we kind of overcomplicating this?  This is way more flight planning than I do for my full size plane.  Obviously, if I'm going to fly from Camarillo to Montana, I'm going to check the weather along my route, plane for alternates etc.  But if I'm going to do touch-n-goes in the pattern, which is arguably way more dangerous than flying a drone, I'm not going to flight plan it.

 

 

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37 minutes ago, Jazee said:

The subject of the thread I started was just regarding identifying whether or not you need to apply for FAA Authorization at a given location and if that location is in the Facilities Map for *supposedly* expedited approval.

While informative, only the last 4 links in your post are therefore relevant to this topic of this particular thread.

Furthermore, my intent was identifying one map provider that could provide both FAA Part 107 Restriction info, and show the current Facilities Map.  None of the links you posted do that with the exception of the ESRI Cloud.  You can actual dig very deep to find filtering capability to set filters to only show airspace classes that apply down to 0 elevation.  Anything above that is typically 700 or 1200 minimum which doesn't apply to drones.  This took some playing around to discover but it's a very very clunky solution.

I don't know about you, but to me, time is money.  So I'm always looking for the best toolset to get the job done most efficiently (and safely).  I don't derive pleasure from going to a dozen website to get information that I feel I should be getting from 4.  Or in the case of airspace restrictions, from *1* map site.

 

A couple of ways I look at the airspace initially.

1. Google Earth with a FAA sectional overlay.  Type in the address or location and get a quick idea of what the airspace is.

2. This FAA website is pretty good and you can filter for the controlled airspace you want to see.  It also has an address search function.

https://faa.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=9c2e4406710048e19806ebf6a06754ad/

This map is where the uas ceiling heights for possible clearance is located as well.

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On 10/21/2017 at 12:16 PM, Spitfire76 said:

Has anyone used Altitude Angel's maps ?

https://www.altitudeangel.com

 

I had not heard of it until your post here, but it looks like a pretty nice interface.  There appear to be a couple of bugs that I have reported to them tonight just messing around with it, but overall it seems to have a nice interface.  They are based in the U.K., but it appears as if they are trying hard to also speak in terms of U.S. regulations (Part 107).  That can be a challenging task.

However, for all of our official flying, we require our pilots to use the FAA ArcGis site for the simple reason that if it's wrong and we can verify that the information we got was from their own FAA site, they would be hard pressed to say that we had not done our own due diligence. 

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9 hours ago, ScottF said:

I had not heard of it until your post here, but it looks like a pretty nice interface.  There appear to be a couple of bugs that I have reported to them tonight just messing around with it, but overall it seems to have a nice interface.  They are based in the U.K., but it appears as if they are trying hard to also speak in terms of U.S. regulations (Part 107).  That can be a challenging task.

Yes, its a U.K company but they do cover other countries including the USA. Interestingly they make their maps freely available to individual users but will charge other companies to use their APIs. What's also interesting for me is that they have worked with the open source Ardupilot community and freely added their APIs to the Mission Planner ground control station software.

I did noticed that the zones around heliports are much smaller than a 5 mile radius. Is that one of the bugs that you reported ?.

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1 hour ago, Av8Chuck said:

Are heliports clasified as an airport?  I don't think heliports are restricted to 5 miles.  

I thought heliports fell under the prevailing airspace. We have two close by but they are managed by the regional airport and not considered a separate entity. That may change is a less populated area though.?.

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2 hours ago, Av8Chuck said:

Are heliports clasified as an airport?  I don't think heliports are restricted to 5 miles.  

The FAA's B4UFLY iPhone app displays the following message when I am at my home or in the nearby park where I sometimes fly.

"You are within 5 miles an airport"

"By law, you must notify the airport operator and the air traffic control tower (if one is present) of your flight."

The only airport that is that close to me is a hospital heliport. I believe this app is mainly designed for recreational pilots but it looks like they consider heliports as airports.

Edited by Spitfire76
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2 minutes ago, Spitfire76 said:

The FAA's B4UFLY iPhone app displays the following message when I am at my home or in the nearby park where I sometimes fly.

"You are within 5 miles an airport"

"By law, you must notify the airport operator and the air traffic control tower (if one is present) of your flight.

The only airport that is that close to me is a hospital heliport. I believe this app is mainly designed for recreational pilots but it looks like they consider heliports as airports.

Can you give a specific location? What do the sectionals say?

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32 minutes ago, Dave Pitman said:

It's just a tool to provide hobbyists with a little guidance.

@Dave Pitman I agree with you... B4UFly app is only for hobbyists.  The FAA even states that's the case, but a lot of people are confused.  Here's what the FAA FAQ for B4UFly says: 

https://www.faa.gov/uas/where_to_fly/b4ufly/media/UAS_B4UFLY_QandA.pdf

"Q. Is B4UFLY intended for commercial operators or hobbyists? A. B4UFLY is really geared toward users of unmanned aircraft who fly for hobby or recreation. The app parameters are set up in accordance with the Special Rule for Model Aircraft (Section 336) in the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. However, we expect civil or commercial operators will also find aspects of the app useful, and we will consider future enhancements."

But, the FAA website page that describes the B4UFly, doesn't make that clear.  https://www.faa.gov/uas/where_to_fly/b4ufly  So, as usual, the FAA ends up confusing a lot of people.

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Is this correct ?

If I fly as a hobbyist I have to inform the Sutter Roseville Medical Center of each flight but if I fly under my part 107 certification I do not.

I guess it does as with the Skyward maps I see selecting "recreational" displays a 5 mile radius zone around my local heliports but changing to "commercial" removes them.

If I fly recreational I am covered by my AMA membership insurance but would need additional insurance for that flight if I fly under part 107 so maybe a call to the heliport is worth it (assuming this is not a paid mission and I am just performing test flights).

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There's a lot of confusion regarding part107 and hobbyists. 

The rules for hobbyists are not binding.  I don't remember the term used for this but hobbyists are not a part of the NAS and subject to FAA regulations.

A lot has been made about operators calling local ATC for permission.  They are not authorized to provide it and part107 does not require it.  As for the heliports, I believe  @R Martin is correct, they are just part of the airspace they're located in but again your not required to contact them prior to your flight.  

I get that people want to cooperate and work together to solve these sorts of conflicts, but if you call a heliport for example, they acknowledge your flight and provide tacit approval and there's an accident, they might be culpable for any damages you cause.

Thats the problem with all of this there need to be ONE DEFINITIVE source for flight data and that needs to be the FAA (or any other agency tasked with regulating sUAV) but it should not be privatized because the FAA is either too stupid, too understaffed or both to resolve this.  

This is quicly tuning into a cluster F&@).  

 

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1 hour ago, Spitfire76 said:

I don't see anything on the sectionals related to heliports around me. Here is a screen shot of the B4UFLY app.

Depending upon the area you are located in (or flying in for this case), Skyvector has Heli charts (see image) as well as sectionals and other charts for navigation at high and low-level. This is one of the reasons that sectionals were on the test...you should be using sectionals for planning. Check out the new TFR on the chart too....Trump is coming to town to beg for money for the RNC and they shut Dallas/Fort Worth down for a day so he can do it....and my photoshoot.

Capture.JPG

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1 hour ago, Av8Chuck said:

The rules for hobbyists are not binding.  I don't remember the term used for this but hobbyists are not a part of the NAS and subject to FAA regulations.

 

I know that hobbyists no longer have to register their UAVs providing they are part of a community based organization like the AMA but I did not see any change to operating within 5 miles from an airport.

https://www.faa.gov/uas/getting_started/

Also found this in the B4UFLY app FAQ

Q. Why are there so many airports depicted on the B4UFLY map?

A. The FAA’s airport database includes all airports that meet the regulatory definition of an airport, from the largest commercial hubs to hospital helipads and backyard air strips. It is important for UAS operators to maintain situational awareness of any air traffic that could potentially impact their operations. Currently, B4UFLY considers all of these as “airports” when determining flight status.

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On 10/20/2017 at 7:17 PM, Dave Pitman said:

2. This FAA website is pretty good and you can filter for the controlled airspace you want to see.  It also has an address search function.

https://faa.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=9c2e4406710048e19806ebf6a06754ad/

This map is where the uas ceiling heights for possible clearance is located as well.

 

But this problem with this map is that it shows you airspace classifications that don't apply below 400 feet.  You have to manually add a filter.

After starting this thread and before I read all the replies I ran across Altitude Angel. And noticed the same things noted: they are in UK, but their map is damn good.  Great clean easy-to use interface that shows everything a Part 107 pilot needs to determine the necessity for FAA authorization.  BUT, like Airmap, their FAA Facility Map is not up-to-date.  The only place it appears you can see the most up-to-date FAA facilities Map is the arcgis.com site link above.  So both Airmap and Altitude Angel I suspect are getting their Facility Map grids from the same data source, and that cutting-edge, forward-thinking, common sense, efficiently operating organization, the FAA is just providing them outdated data.

Since Airmap doesn't identify that big chunk of Class B around Las Vegas (and Altitude Angel does) I will no longer bother with Airmap.  They have an impressive array of large companies they are partnering with but the people in the UK are doing a better job providing a map for the US!

It makes no sense to require an authorization request to fly in the Facility Map areas below the indicated altitude.  If I'm in a city, 4 miles from the airport flying at 100 feet or below in a facilities map area, what is the authorization application review process entail?  (a) is the location the pilot provided actually in the facilities map, and (b) is the pilot's stated max altitude below the limit for that grid? Gee, I believe a computer can verify both of those things, or, the pilot!  If there is a large aircraft flying at 100 feet 4 miles from the airport, the FAA has a lot bigger problem to deal with that a drone flying below that altitude without "authorization".

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1 hour ago, Jazee said:

But this problem with this map is that it shows you airspace classifications that don't apply below 400 feet.  You have to manually add a filter.

I guess I don't see this as a problem because I understand how the airspace relates to me when flying either uas or full scale.  I think what you are asking for is not really reasonable. In addition, if you want to see only things that relate to uas operation then you are going to limit your situational awareness as to what to expect from other aircraft in the area.  I think that when you get fully accustomed to the airspace, it will be easier for you to not be bothered that you see airspace for other aircraft .  Just my opinion though.  I'm not trying to be adversarial.

 

1 hour ago, Jazee said:

It makes no sense to require an authorization request to fly in the Facility Map areas below the indicated altitude.  If I'm in a city, 4 miles from the airport flying at 100 feet or below in a facilities map area, what is the authorization application review process entail?  (a) is the location the pilot provided actually in the facilities map, and (b) is the pilot's stated max altitude below the limit for that grid? Gee, I believe a computer can verify both of those things, or, the pilot!  If there is a large aircraft flying at 100 feet 4 miles from the airport, the FAA has a lot bigger problem to deal with that a drone flying below that altitude without "authorization".

 

I agree with this completely.  The FAA needs to just specify what is required and we will adhere to the requirements.  No "cloud" system needed.

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4 hours ago, Jazee said:

But this problem with this map is that it shows you airspace classifications that don't apply below 400 feet.  You have to manually add a filter.

I'd love to know how you added a filter.... it doesn't appear to give you the option to specify that the altitude for the "Lower Limit" is greater than 400 feet.  It only allows you to do text matches for "contains",or  "doesn't contain", etc.  My point, is that I don't even think this is possible from the FAA Arc ESRI site.

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On 10/23/2017 at 7:46 PM, ScottF said:

I'd love to know how you added a filter.... it doesn't appear to give you the option to specify that the altitude for the "Lower Limit" is greater than 400 feet.  It only allows you to do text matches for "contains",or  "doesn't contain", etc.  My point, is that I don't even think this is possible from the FAA Arc ESRI site.

You need to set the lower altitude limit to contains 0.   Yes, I initially thought but what if the lower limit is 200ft?  I can't say for sure, but practically speaking, all the classifications I've looked at are either down to 0, or 700 or above. Typically it jumps to 1,200 after 700.

 

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