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The Future of Flying a sUAS in the US- Rules Paralysis
688 13 2018-2-13
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BearDrone
lvl.4
Flight distance : 2887251 ft
United States
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This is somewhat a rant, and somewhat of a call for opinions on what other pilots are doing. A little background first.

I've been using a P4 Standard for just about a year now. I have 40 hours of flight time and around 120 flights. I was given my P4 as a gift, and I probably never would have purchased one on my own. I have been a serious photography hobbyist my entire life, but have very little videography exposure. I am so glad that I was given this drone. I love flying, and I am learning more and more about videography as things go along. I have much to learn, but I am glad I have entered this recreational drone space.

Like the vast majority of pilots, I want to abide by the rules and regulations and continue to give the recreational drone community a positive image. I think we all have that responsibility. In my quest to adhere to all rules, I have been using Google maps and adhereing to FAA guidelines. I live in a community with a huge military presence with multiple master jet bases, helo pads, and various other restricted areas. Those are no-brainers, and I strictly adhere to all those regulations.

I thought it was time to download an app to help me understand the different airspace categories that are around me because I want to get out and explore more. I live in a coastal area with many barrier islands and beaches, waterways and estuaries, and the Atlantic and Chesapeake Bay in my back yard. I downloaded AirMap after going to their website and seeing what they have to offer. It seems that B4UFly via the FAA is the most inaccurate and hated app out there for this purpose. Go figure, a government product that's not good!? Hard to believe.

Now the frustration; in planning some flights within a 2 hour driving radius using AirMap, it is clear to me that if I abide by every rule and regulation, I will never be able to lift off. There are some barrier islands on the Eastern Shore of Virginia that I would love to explore with the P4. This is a rural community with many farms and many small airfields that are used for crop spraying and general transport. These are not regional airports, but rather private primative strips. For me to take off near these barrier islands, I would have to call no less than 5 "airfields", 3 hospitals, and 4 private helo pads. Some have contact information, and some do not. How is this possible? How can I even remotely comply to all these regulations??

These barrier islands are also home to hundreds of thousands of migratory and resident shore birds; from gannets to rails to canada geese, gulls, turns, etc. You literally can see massive flocks of them that look like white clouds taking off from the beaches and marshlands. Any one of these birds poses a greater threat to a crop duster or Piper than my P4 ever would. There is no way to control their flight path or know where they will be flying.

I've also looked into taking my P4 on several trips I have coming up. We are going on a cruise through Alaska and the Pacific Northwest, and I am now being told I cannot even take my drone on board the ship. It will be confiscated and given back to me upon disembarking. I certainly understand not wanting some knucklehead to take off form the ship, but why can't I bring it along for the shore excursions as long as it is legal to fly where we will be going?

I fully understand that we all have a responsibility to mitigate any remote risk that a sUAS may pose to those in the NAS. However, if a pilot were to strictly adhere to every stated rule and regulation, you would never be able to take off. Staying out of commercial airport's space and away from the military bases is easy. It's the hundreds of small air fields and helo pads that pose a challenge as I see it.

What are other pilots doing? Do you call these small airfields and notify them of your flights? Can they deny that you fly near them, or is it a "notify and fly" policy for the drone pilot? I want to be compliant and safe, but the number of regulations and rules are becoming such that it may not even be worth the hassle of getting the craft up in the air. Frustrating.
2018-2-13
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RMJovo
First Officer
Flight distance : 1517644 ft
United States
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I feel your pain, I have 2 hospitals with helicopter pads, a seaplane base and a Class D airspace where I fly, I use AirMap, No problem calling the ATC tower or the areas air traffic control center to inform them of the flight area and operations (that are easy to work with). However, the seaplane base I just get a message machine so I leave the flight information on it and call it a day for them, the hospitals I talk to security and tell them.  As for you with the small airports you should workout a mutual agreement with places you fly and maximum altitude you would be at, hospitals (good luck getting somebody that knows who to tell about you flight plan for that day) again for the helo pads work out a agreement as to how to inform them or where you will operate. In my case I stay in VLOS and very seldom go above 250 ft above AGL. Good luck to you and Fly Save
2018-2-13
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Pvt Pilot '79
lvl.4
Flight distance : 1000272 ft
United States
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Private airplanes that typically use class D airports are not supposed to fly below 1,000 ft AGL unless they are operating within the airport control area such as take off and landing. AT 400 ft AGL, maximum allowable altitude, you're safe and it sounds like you are one of us that follow those rules. There are knuckleheads among us that do not follow that rule and can take an airplane down in a heartbeat. I'm actually surprised by the fact that our drones are not software limited to that maximum altitude. I have personally seen drones in the air while flying myself and it does distract a pilot from looking out for other LEGAL aircraft at that altitude. You can go on the FAA website and look at TFR's (Temporary Flight Restrictions) that forbid any flight in that designated area such as fires, law enforcement, government transportation as examples.
2018-2-13
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BearDrone
lvl.4
Flight distance : 2887251 ft
United States
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Thanks for the feedback folks. I sincerely appreciate it.

Yes, I have never flown my P4 above 400 feet. That's the rule, that's fine with me. I actually find myself flying lower than that in most scenarios because the video is more dramatic and relevant. The two helo pads that are within the area that I fly regularly, are both oddball scenarios. The one is a hospital, but it does not have a trauma center to accept any helos anymore and those choppers go 14 miles west to the Level 1 trauma center. So, they have a pad, but I have not seen it used in probably 6 years since they closed that trauma center. I imagine they keep it open just in case.

The other one is a private pilot who lives on the water in a grand estate and has the pad down near his docks. While I applaud his success (family started Cox Communications), he flies like a jerk. He does not keep above 1,000 feet as his minimum altitude, and I have seen him as low as 200 feet buzzing the area as he approaches, or maybe he is just having "fun". There is a phone number listed for the LLC of the owner, but I have never called it.

What exactly is my obligation in this instance? Sometimes I do a planned flight, and other times I see a beautiful sunset/sunrise and just launch from my yard to get up and take some video/pictures as quickly as I can. I can't imagine I have to call this person's number every time and say, "I'm flying my P4 in this area".

Is that how it works??

The other areas with the military bases and commercial airports, I just stay outside of. The rural air strips is a new development, and I'm not sure how to handle that other than making the calls and seeing what the owners say. I'm still not sure on what my legal obligation is. Do I just say, "Hey, I'm going to be flying in this area below 400 ft AGL, have a nice day"?, or do I have to give my position, flight plan, etc. ?

I've only known about 4 other drone pilots in the year that I have flown. I am the only one who stays below 400 feet all the time. One is a 12 year old kid, and he is plain old dangerous. I keep telling his dad he needs to reel him in or something bad is going to happen. He flies over highways, crowded parks full of kids, out of VLOS, etc. It is a nightmare.

Anyway, I'm tying to do the best I can, but I need to balance the practicality of risk mitigation and actually enjoying the hobby I'm pursuing.
2018-2-13
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GrangerFX
First Officer
Flight distance : 817713 ft
United States
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The way it works now is that the FAA creates the rules but does not enforce them. Pilots know the rules but do not follow them. Nothing happens until something goes wrong and then there is a complete s-storm at which point the unlucky pilot is selectively prosecuted. If they are lucky they get off with a fine ($1000 to $2000) if they are nice and promise to follow the rules in the future and have a lawyer speak for them. The sad thing about this whole mess is that very few of the FAA's rules actually promote safety. For example they say you can't fly FPV without a spotter. Actually they really mean you can't fly FPV at all but whatever. The truth is that FPV flying is far safer than naked eye flying as it is pretty much impossible to dodge a low flying plane approaching at over 100 miles per hour no matter how many spotters you have. "Just descend" they say but try that at 15 feet above the waves with an approaching Cessna wave skimming (something I have observed on one flight). Then there is the whole "line of sight" thing which seems to mean something completely different to the FAA than to the rest of the English speaking world. The FAA should be telling plane and helicopter pilots that they need to stay above 1000 feet AGL to avoid drones or if they must fly low, get ready to dodge when they see one and not create a big stink about it. Also if airline pilots could stop describing anything that flashes past their windows at 30,000 feet as a "drone", that would be great, hmm kay?
2018-2-14
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RedHotPoker
Captain
Flight distance : 165105 ft
Canada
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I would suggest you need to try and find private places to fly from.

Once the drone is in the air, not too many people would ever even notice it.


It's the take off and landing that attract the negative attention, mostly.


RedHotPoker
2018-2-15
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Dirty Bird
Captain
Flight distance : 6793123 ft
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United States
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RedHotPoker Posted at 2018-2-15 01:41
I would suggest you need to try and find private places to fly from.

Once the drone is in the air, not too many people would ever even notice it.

That's what I do.  Stealthy takeoff, discretely flying from in my truck, let her rip.  When a mission is running, drone appears out of nowhere, blows bye, gone.  Where did it come from?  Where did it go?  That's assuming anyone even noticed it at all.  

Stealth & Discretion are your friends!
2018-2-15
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RedHotPoker
Captain
Flight distance : 165105 ft
Canada
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Dirty Bird Posted at 2018-2-15 07:41
That's what I do.  Stealthy takeoff, discretely flying from in my truck, let her rip.  When a mission is running, drone appears out of nowhere, blows bye, gone.  Where did it come from?  Where did it go?  That's assuming anyone even noticed it at all.  

Stealth & Discretion are your friends!

Yup, no need to advertise. Anyway, my flights should always be considered missions now. Yes, mostly & strictly business. Heck, I even have uniforms for my incognito drone travels.
I like the Wildlife Officer best.... Haha


RedHotPoker
2018-2-15
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Oracle Miata
Captain
Flight distance : 2243632 ft
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United States
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Lol, I gotta get some incognito uniforms ASAP.
2018-2-15
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ALABAMA
Captain
Flight distance : 10391991 ft
United States
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Just hide it in a backpack and go with it.  Easier to get forgiveness than permission.
2018-2-15
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BearDrone
lvl.4
Flight distance : 2887251 ft
United States
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Dirty Bird Posted at 2018-2-15 07:41
That's what I do.  Stealthy takeoff, discretely flying from in my truck, let her rip.  When a mission is running, drone appears out of nowhere, blows bye, gone.  Where did it come from?  Where did it go?  That's assuming anyone even noticed it at all.  

Stealth & Discretion are your friends!

You sir, are the master of the drone Litchi videos at unreal locations, so THAT is advice I will heed!

I realize that discretion is the key, but I live in a highly populated, crawling with military installations kind of place. I'm pretty good at getting up fast and straight when I fly from my home, but when going to other locations, there are people everywhere. Tons of tourist from May to September.

The one location I want to fly from is a wildlife sanctuary, and the only place to drive to is the boat launch down near the main channel. There's really no other place to launch, so if anyone sees the drone in the area, not too hard to put two and two together as far as where it came from.

I guess common sense and discretion are the way to go. Many of the regulations make no sense, and in many cases, as another poster pointed out, do nothing to make the skies safer.

Thanks for the input guys.
2018-2-15
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AndrewCCM
lvl.1
Flight distance : 4738 ft
United States
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No one answered your question about Notify vs. Permission.  I believe as long as you're operating within FAA guidelines and are not in no fly zones, NOTIFICATION is all that is necessary.  They do not wield the authority to "approve/disapprove" your flights.  Here is my question..  I just want to learn how to fly better... So I want to go out a few times a week and literally just fly around an empty field or school playground.  I may not even get my quad off the ground more than 25-50 ft.  Just want to make maneuvers and learn to fly without GPS, etc...  So (OFFICIALLY), I literally have to make phone calls to 10+ places to notify them that I am going to flying in my backyard for a few minutes probably not even above the tree line????    It's really ridiculous (not to mention embarrassing to make that call).  They need to hurry up and get with the times.  There needs to be electronic notification systems/flight plans that integrate across all that utilize the airspace.  It honestly seems like a VERY SIMPLE THING TO IMPLEMENT.  It's one thing if they are having to control access, give approvals, etc..  BUT THEY AREN'T.  YOU JUST HAVE TO NOTIFY!  Why not make that easy for people, instead of promoting the practice of ignoring???  Geez I digress...  Good topic... Been around forever and with government, will likely be around and not intelligently acted upon in my lifetime.
2018-2-15
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RedHotPoker
Captain
Flight distance : 165105 ft
Canada
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Oracle Miata Posted at 2018-2-15 16:46
Lol, I gotta get some incognito uniforms ASAP.

Works for me. Haha

Being official is sometimes the only way to go.


RedHotPoker
2018-2-15
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BearDrone
lvl.4
Flight distance : 2887251 ft
United States
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AndrewCCM Posted at 2018-2-15 18:37
No one answered your question about Notify vs. Permission.  I believe as long as you're operating within FAA guidelines and are not in no fly zones, NOTIFICATION is all that is necessary.  They do not wield the authority to "approve/disapprove" your flights.  Here is my question..  I just want to learn how to fly better... So I want to go out a few times a week and literally just fly around an empty field or school playground.  I may not even get my quad off the ground more than 25-50 ft.  Just want to make maneuvers and learn to fly without GPS, etc...  So (OFFICIALLY), I literally have to make phone calls to 10+ places to notify them that I am going to flying in my backyard for a few minutes probably not even above the tree line????    It's really ridiculous (not to mention embarrassing to make that call).  They need to hurry up and get with the times.  There needs to be electronic notification systems/flight plans that integrate across all that utilize the airspace.  It honestly seems like a VERY SIMPLE THING TO IMPLEMENT.  It's one thing if they are having to control access, give approvals, etc..  BUT THEY AREN'T.  YOU JUST HAVE TO NOTIFY!  Why not make that easy for people, instead of promoting the practice of ignoring???  Geez I digress...  Good topic... Been around forever and with government, will likely be around and not intelligently acted upon in my lifetime.

Right. I know what you mean. How is notifying a helo pad that is only used in dire emergencies that is 4 miles from my flight area going to make anything safer? It's not, and once again this is the idiocy of bureaucracy ruling our lives.

For practicing manual flight around your house, I would not notify anyone. That's just my honest opinion, and not legal advice. An electronic notification system built into the DJI app would be great.

Again, I think discretion, common sense, and speed is the order of the day.
2018-2-16
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