New maps that show drone owners where they can – and cannot – operate should speed up the registration process for the increasingly popular flying machines.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says it will release the first set of facility maps for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) – a.k.a. drones -- April 27. The maps will depict areas and altitudes near airports where UAS may operate safely. They will help drone operators improve the quality of their Part 107 airspace authorization requests and will help the FAA process these requests more quickly.
Drones near airports a growing problem
Reports of possible drone sightings near airports rose to 1,274 during 2016, from 874 in 2015. Safely integrating unmanned aircraft into the national airspace system is one of the FAA's top priorities, and the agency wants to send a clear message that operating drones around airplanes and helicopters is dangerous and illegal. Unauthorized operators may be subject to stiff fines and criminal charges, including possible jail time.
Beginning April 27, users may access the facility maps at http://www.faa.gov/uas. Users will be able to download the data in several formats, view the site on mobile devices and customize their views.
By referring to the facility maps when completing airspace authorization applications, remote pilots will be able to tailor their requests to align with locations and altitudes that the maps indicate are likely to be approved for small UAS operations. This will help simplify the process and increase the likelihood that the FAA will approve their requests.
FAA air traffic personnel will use the maps to process Part 107 airspace authorization requests. Altitudes that exceed what are depicted on the maps require additional safety analysis and coordination to determine if an application can be approved.
The maps will be informational only. They do not automatically authorize flights. Remote pilots must still submit online airspace authorization applications at https://www.faa.gov/uas/. The maps also do not guarantee approval for requests within the guidelines indicated by the maps. Only the FAA can grant controlled airspace access, which must be done through the authorization process.
More maps on the way
The agency is releasing the maps in phases, with the first release on April 27 containing approximately 200 facility maps, as the first step in streamlining the airspace authorization process. The FAA plans to release facility maps over the next 12 months. Updates to the maps database will coincide with the agency’s existing 56-day aeronautical chart production schedule (PDF). If a map is not yet available, it can be expected in future releases.
The FAA’s website will be updated within the several weeks with additional guidance and information about the facility maps. Visit www.faa.gov/uas on April 27, 2017 to view the facility maps.
Additional questions may be directed to the FAA's UAS Integration Office via firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 844-FLY-MY-UA.