Pre-Flight Planning – Airspace

Pre-flight planning is the first step of any mapping project.  Many of the issues that field crews run into during operations can be mitigated by spending a few minutes in the office planning out the flight.  We’ve broken up our pre-flight planning into a few different steps and this newsletter will concentrate on airspace.

Controlled airspace

controlled airspace

Class C airspace around Reno Airport.  Altitude limits of the airspace highlighted (surface to 8,400’ MSL). 

First, is the flight area in controlled airspace (Class B, C, D, or surface E)?  If so, FAA permission is required before you can fly there.  Think of this as the area within 5 miles of a towered airfield.  You can identify these areas through FAA sectional charts or FAA UAS facility maps.  These can be seen online at skyvector.com.

LAANC in controlled airspace

reno airspace

UAS maximum altitude surrounding Reno Class C airspace.   Reno supports LAANC

If the flight is in controlled airspace, what is the maximum altitude the drone can fly and how do you get permission?  Altitudes around airports are broken out into grids.  These can be seen on the FAA Facility website or through commercial providers, such as Airmap.  In order to get permission to fly in this airspace, you can go through automated services such as LAANC.  Companies such as Airmap can provide same day permission as long as operations are lower than the maximum altitude of the grid.

LAANC isn’t always an option

truckee airspace

Class C airspace surround Reno supports LAANC, but the Class E airspace surrounding Truckee does not.

Unfortunately, not all airports support LAANC.  If the airport does not support LAANC or you are looking to operate above the maximum altitude shown, permission must be requested through the FAA website.  This can take up to 90-days. 

Uncontrolled airspace (class G)

stead airspace

Stead Airfield, northwest of Reno, is uncontrolled, but has heavy general aviation and Army National Guard helicopter traffic.

When the flight is in uncontrolled airspace (Class G airspace), which is pretty much everywhere else, there are still considerations.  First, are your operations around uncontrolled (or untowered) airports.  Although FAA permission is not required, it is a good idea to contact the airfield manager if you plan to operate within 3 miles of these airports.  UAS are required to not interfere with manned aircraft (see & avoid), not the other way around, and some of these airports are very busy.  The airfield manager may be able to provide the best times of days, locations, areas to avoid, or if it may be too difficult to accomplish data acquisition for your particular area of interest.

MTRs

mtrs

VR1250 north of Fernley, NV which goes directly over the top of Nixon, NV

One other consideration in uncontrolled airspace are military training routes (MTRs).  These routes can contain military traffic as low as 100’, moving at near the speed of sound.  Generally, the UAS pilot will not have enough time to react to the sight of these aircraft to avoid them.  If your mapping area is along an MTR, it is a good idea to contact the MTR owner, to provide them awareness of your operations.

Local Regulations

Lastly, though state and local governments cannot put restrictions on airspace (the topic of FAA & local government preemption concerning airspace would be a much longer post and is covered in-depth online), they can control where aircraft can be launched and recovered.  If flying in a new area, it is best to check local regulations

The above information is not a complete overview of airspace issues.  Other considerations revolve around Restricted, Prohibited and Military Operating Areas, as well as National Defense Airspace, Temporary Flight Restrictions, National Park and Wilderness Area restrictions.  These FAA and airspace issues can be confusing and highly technical.  If you have questions concerning airspace, feel free to call/email us at 775-453-6486 or email George @ george.nicholas@striximaging.com.

Stay tuned for our next newsletter in a couple weeks.  We’ll be going over side lap, over lap, and making the case for doing all flight planning in the office instead of in the field.

Happy to help

If you have any questions about pre-flight planning, don’t hesitate to reach out to George Nicholas @ george.nicholas@striximaging.com or 775-453-6486.

The above information is not a complete overview of airspace issues.  Other considerations revolve around Restricted, Prohibited and Military Operating Areas, as well as National Defense Airspace, Temporary Flight Restrictions, National Park and Wilderness Area restrictions.  These FAA and airspace issues can be confusing and highly technical.  If you have questions concerning airspace, feel free to call/email us at 775-453-6486 or email George @ george.nicholas@striximaging.com.

Stay tuned for our next newsletter in a couple weeks.  We’ll be going over side lap, over lap, and making the case for doing all flight planning in the office instead of in the field.