Every day more and more businesses are beginning to incorporate drone based aerial imaging services into their work plans and deliverables. Being a relatively new technology, it is quite common to hear new clients say something along the lines of “I’ve never used a drone before so I’m not sure what you need from me”. This is such a common comment that I felt the topic deserved it’s very own blog post.
HOPE IS NOT A PLAN
It is understandable for a new drone user of drone aerial imaging to think that all that is required is to contact a drone service and book a flight with little advance notice. In some cases last minute calls like these can be accommodated if the schedule permits but quite often there are a series of administrative hurdles that must be addressed before the drone is cleared for take off. I will list these hurldles in the order we typically dispatch them via our work order system.
1. Clearing Airspace
Non-aviators usually have no need to know the details behind how our skies overhead are broken up into different airspace classifications in order to safely and efficiently manage air navigation and transportation. Drones are no exception to this time-tested system and must operate in a manner that does not conflict with ANY operations of full size aircraft. Much of our skies fall into what is called “uncontrolled airspace” or Class “G”. If the location you need a drone flight is in a Class “G” zone then quite often “Bob’s your uncle”. If however you have picked a location within 5 miles of an airport with a active control tower for example, this is now “controlled airspace” and a commercial drone can only operate within these zones with ATC authorization in the form of a special authorization or waiver. The closer your intended site is to the center of these airports, the more planning/authorization is required, meaning more “TIME” will be needed to coordinate. It can often take months to obtain these special authorizations if not already in-hand.
Understanding the importance of this issue, Perfect Perspectives was the first Ohio Drone Service to obtain wide area airspace authorizations for most of Ohio’s controlled airspace. So too the FAA quickly realized the long lead times required to obtain authorizations was unacceptable and a new on-demand/real-time system called LAANC (Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability) is set to be rolled out later this summer making this less of a cause for delays.
Another often unforeseen airspace clearance required deals with Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFR’s). These are typically associated with VIP movements and large Pro and NCAA stadium sporting events. When these are in affect they can stretch from 3 to 30 miles from the center point depending on activity being protected. It is possible to obtain an FAA waiver for the stadium TFR’s with written permission from the event owner. Such waivers can take days to weeks to obtain.
2. Clearing Permits
Currently in the U.S. only the FAA has jurisdiction over what can fly in the various flavors of airspace above. HOWEVER, City, State, Local, Tribal governments and private land owners can restrict drone operations being launched and recovered on properties they own and control. In some cases permissions will not be granted. In many others, a permit application will need to be filed and, at times, an associated fee will be charged. Approval lead times can range from days to weeks.
3. Clearing Policies/Liabilities
In an effort to protect public safety, privacy and restrict unauthorized use of drones, many organizations now have drone policies in effect. In order to be cleared for a commercial drone operation in these cases, the operator must supply one or more of the following items –
– Certificates of Insurance (aviation, general, vehicle and Worker’s Comp)
– FAA License and Registrations
– FAA Waivers and Authorizations (airspace, night operations, etc)
– Flight Operations Safety Manual
– Detailed Flight Plan
Each of these items will then be reviewed by the company’s Legal and Risk Management Departments before issuing a release to conduct operations. This too can take days or weeks to obtain approval.
4. Clearing Regulatory Requirements
Last on our list is making sure the aerial imaging the client needs/wants can be obtained within the current FAA Part 107 regulations for commercial drones. The most common considerations here deal with the restrictions prohibiting flights directly over people and moving vehicles. Often when this is pointed out, and the only direct solution is obtaining a permit for closed-set operations, the drone work is cancelled because the project can not justify the time and expense to comply. As Ohio’s Most Experienced Drone Service, Perfect Perspectives has 13 years experience using a wide array of available options to legally work around these issues. Some of these include selecting the optimum time/day with minimal activity to use of advanced flight techniques and the addition of Visual Safety Observers.
With this information in hand you can now take the necessary steps to assure that lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on ours with the end result being a smooth flight with little or no turbulence.
To learn more, Please contact – http://perfectperspectivesaerial.com/