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Nav/Com radio use in the 5 mile radius
1064 10 2016-8-5
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flighttime1
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I've decided to order a nav/com radio for talking to airport towers when working within the 5 mile radius. Does anyone have any experience with using them? From my reading the rules state you must have 'permission' to fly' and I can't think of a better method of dealing with that than to just let the controller know live. When shooting from helicopters, it seems like half of the targets are right smack in the landing path of an airport. I've never not been able to get the job done but there are often delays whilst waiting for traffic to subside. I'm pretty sure that talking live would give you a better chance of getting a go ahead then communicating by email or phone as the controller doesn't have to leave his station to give you an ok for say the next 15 minutes.
2016-8-5
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As a full scale aircraft operator / mechanic I routinely use hand held coms to speak with pilots from the ground when they are flying after maintenance.  A hand held com will not work for talking to ATC when ground to ground, unless it is a very short distance / line-of-sight.  Handhelds just don't have the wattage.

I would use the handheld to monitor the frequency though.  But for contacting the tower, your best bet is to get the tower phone number from a airport facility directory (AFD) and call them.  Phones are low priority for a controller, so expect he will be on the radio while talking to you at the same time!
2016-8-5
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RichJ53
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These handheld radios have limited range and can be difficult for the tower to understand when you are transmitting from the ground. They work pretty good when you have LOS to the tower. You would want to call the operations tower first because you do not have a aircraft call number (land line)  and they are pretty busy with aircraft.  They will notify aircraft of your operations but you would not receive any priority over aircraft traffic in the pattern.  Please keep in mind that it has been some time since I used one of the radios and this is only my opinion.


edit: agree with Ken's information ...



Maybe others have had better luck

Rich
2016-8-5
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markaguille
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Call your local ATC and ask them.
2016-8-6
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flighttime1
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Interesting. The lack of a tail number is something I hadn't thought about and yeah, they do like those. I'm not sure that's addressed in the new rules. I would only be talking to the local tower so ATC isn't an issue. All the reviews I've read for even the most basic radios (re: $200) claim about 4-5 miles ground to ground. As far as the tower being too busy, that runs the gamut. I would never try and jump in on LAX tower but even someplace like John Wayne out here has slow points with no chatter for extended periods. I'll give one of the local towers a call this week and ask them what they think about it. I'll report back here. The logic I'm using is that the FCC, in their words, wants to move UAV's into the national airspace. There has been talk about requiring transponders on UAVs at some point in the future. All of that leads me to believe that talking to the tower when you are in the 5 mile radius is going to become commonplace at some point.
2016-8-6
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flighttime1 Posted at 2016-8-7 08:25
Interesting. The lack of a tail number is something I hadn't thought about and yeah, they do like th ...

Don't forget you have a registration number for your machine, correct?  That's the number you would give ATC when speaking with them.  I've flown test flown ultralights at towered airports.  An ultralight is not considered an aircraft by the FAA, hence they have no N numbers.  All other aircraft have right of way over an ultralight, and I always would call the controller via phone and work it out ahead of time with time.

Fyi, any airport with a operating control tower is considered to be ATC.  Smaller airports that do not have a control tower use a frequency (assigned for THAT airport) called CTAF, which stands for Common Traffic Advisory Frequency.  All pilots within that airspace use that frequency to announce their intentions, though it is NOT required.  Basically its like pilots talking over a CB radio.  Information about these airports is available in a book called an AFD, which stands for Airport Facility Directory.  Info can be found online too, one I use is called AIRNAV.com

Handheld coms can have a longer range, IF you install a aircraft antenna.  In general though, most hand held coms are about 4-5 watts transmit power, whereas panel mounted aircraft coms are in the 10 watt range.  Altitude is key when transmitting - between a hand held com and aircraft overhead, you will hear the aircraft much more clearly then they will hear you.
2016-8-6
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DJI-Ken
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I have a Icom radio that I use for ground operations to monitor and use in the air in case the aircraft radio goes out. But you should not be talking to a tower on the radio about your drone operation. You should only use a radio to monitor.
2016-8-6
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flighttime1
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jim@recreationa Posted at 2016-8-6 18:08
Don't forget you have a registration number for your machine, correct?  That's the number you woul ...

Being commercial, multi and instrument rated, in normal conversation ATC is not the tower.
Edit:::
The proper name would be Air Traffic Control Tower. I've had my license for almost 40 years and have never heard a single pilot refer to the tower as ATC.
2016-8-6
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flighttime1
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DJI-Ken Posted at 2016-8-6 21:25
I have a Icom radio that I use for ground operations to monitor and use in the air in case the aircr ...

Ken... Is there some FAA directive/regulation regarding this? Obviously, we need to contact them if flying within a 5 mile radius. I'm not aware there's a preferred or specific method of making that contact. I haven't had a call to use it yet but AirMap, it appears, sends an email to the airport in question. Since the rule is to have permission, that would mean you have to wait for them to call at the number you've provided in AirMap. As stated, I haven't had a chance to use it yet so I'm guessing. The point being, it seems to me, there is no restriction as to how that permission is obtained. Happy to get any official information to the contrary.
2016-8-6
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DJI-Ken
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flighttime1 Posted at 2016-8-7 12:52
Ken... Is there some FAA directive/regulation regarding this? Obviously, we need to contact them if ...

Since you are a pilot as well then it may be ok, but I would make telephone contact first with that tower to see if they would approve of using the radio to contact them. I also have a 333 and I take my radio on jobs but I only monitor, I file a NOTAM so there's no reason for me to make contact with the tower. I just monitor tower, approach, and departure just to know what's going on around me.
2016-8-6
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Anokadrone
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DJI-Ken Posted at 2016-8-6 21:00
Since you are a pilot as well then it may be ok, but I would make telephone contact first with that tower to see if they would approve of using the radio to contact them. I also have a 333 and I take my radio on jobs but I only monitor, I file a NOTAM so there's no reason for me to make contact with the tower. I just monitor tower, approach, and departure just to know what's going on around me.

Looks like this thread has had a birthday ...oh well.  Just out on the FCC website checking things.  Being a pilot, I had to apply for and receive a license to operate an aircraft radio (transmit) while in an aircraft.  I believe that is still the case.  Nowhere on the FCC site did I see a provision for uSAS operators to get the required license to operate.  Nor did I see any provisions or guidelines for such use.    Anyone have any additional information?  
2018-1-26
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