How does a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) Affect my Drone Flight?
Welcome everyone to the FAA’s webinar series on airspace for UAS operators. My name is Kevin Morris and I'm an Aviation Safety Inspector with the Federal Aviation Administration. And also a subject matter expert on drone operations. Today's webinar will be divided into two segments. The first will be the presentation on airspace restrictions and Notices to Airmen (NOTAM), and the second will provide an opportunity to have your questions answered live on the air. I am joined today by a team of FAA subject matter experts who are ready to take your questions throughout the webinar. If you have a question that you'd like an answer to, you can submit that question into the question & answer pod at the bottom of your screen.
Before I'm able to provide you with an answer during today's webinar, Don't worry. We will answer all questions and post them to our website at a later date. So let's begin! Today, we’re going to discuss: Notices to Airmen (NOTAMs), Temporary Flight Restrictions, Prohibited and restricted areas. I’m going to explain what they are, what they mean to you as a UAS pilot, and where you can find the most current notices. Our primary objective is always the safety of the National Airspace System (NAS) and understanding these key elements is critical to ensuring our primary objectives are met. Notices to Airmen, or NOTAMs, are the FAAs primary means to communicate time-critical aeronautical information to pilots of both manned and unmanned aircraft.
The information contained in a NOTAM is either temporary in nature or was unable to be communicated through an aeronautical chart update or other official publications. NOTAMs are considered essential to safe flight operations, and all pilots are expected to review them prior to flight. A large number of manned and unmanned aircraft incidents can be avoided if pilots check NOTAMs prior to flight. So make this a part of your pre-flight checklist in the same way you would check rotor blades or your battery charge. The FAA publishes NOTAMs on our website: https://pilotweb.nas.faa.gov/PilotWeb/ This website allows the user to search for current NOTAMs through a variety of search criteria. So what we want to do now is take a live look at the NOTAM website. When you pull up the NOTAM website, you're going to be presented with a page that allows you to search for NOTAMs through a variety of different ways. You can enter an airport code and search via that method, but maybe for drone operators, the easiest method would be to use a latitude and longitude coordinate.
So what you can do is: Select the drop-down box, and here I've entered the latitude and longitude of where I'm intending to fly my drone for the day. You can also select a radius of how far out you want this search to go. So for this particular flight, I'm going to put a 5 mile radius on my location. Once you've entered the search criteria, simply click on 'View NOTAMs' and a list of NOTAMs will pull up. Now, it's a fairly large list, and while some NOTAMs may not affect your operation due to altitudes or times of day, there are others in this list that may be of interest to you.
For example, there is a wind turbine farm in the area that will not be illuminated so if you intended to operate at night that may be something you want to take in consideration. There is also the potential for air drops occurring between the surface and 9,000 feet. Again, that may affect your entire operation for the area you want to fly. So now that we've seen the list of NOTAMs, let's take a look at actually how to read a NOTAM. At first glance, you're looking at a NOTAM and it can be a bit confusing. But when you break it down, it's fairly easy to understand, and once you've read a few, You'll be a seasoned NOTAM pro in no time. The first portion of a NOTAM will give you the nearest airport. In this case, Santa Monica, California. Along with what type of NOTAM it's going to be. Here, we're looking at a navigation-based alert related to global positioning satellites What the actual hazard is — is identified next. This is letting you know that GPS may not be available in a certain area. That certain area is then defined.
This NOTAM covers a 10 nautical
mile radius centered on a specific point
defined by a latitude and longitude. Next, the altitudes affected. In this case, from the surface up to (and including) 1,000 feet above ground level. Finally, the NOTAM tells us when in
universal coordinated time — or UTC, we could expect GPS signal loss which is
daily from 10am–2pm UTC. The jumble of numbers that follow are the two-digit year, the two-digit month, the two-digit date, and the four-digit time — again, in UTC, that the NOTAM period officially begins and ends So when looking at a NOTAM, it's best to break it down into smaller segments like this so you can understand what information the FAA wants you to know. And this example also illustrates why reviewing NOTAMs prior to your pre-flight checklist is critical to the safety of your drone flight as GPS signals are normally required for most UAS missions Temporary flight restrictions — or TFRs — are designed to protect persons and property in the air, and on the ground.
They effectively shut down a segment of airspace with only very specific allowances for certain aircraft operations. TFRs can be established for a variety of reasons. They go active to ensure the safety and security of relief operations during natural disasters, protect rocket launches, ensure the safety of the President, or to prevent unsafe congestion of aircraft during an incident or special event. It's a pilot's responsibility to be aware of temporary flight restrictions. Researching TFRs prior to flight enables you to avoid any areas where you may not be able to fly that day, and also take necessary precautions to ensure the safety of your operation. The FAA publishes TFRs on our website at https://tfr.faa.gov/ This website is updated in real-time and provides the most up-to-date information on published TFRs across the country. Now, TFRs can be any shape and size, but generally speaking, they are circular in design. However, depending on the nature of the flight restriction, they can be custom designed to ensure the safety and security of the operations contained within.
TFR graphical representations are depicted against FAA aeronautical charts. If you're not sure where to find those charts, or how to read them, we are releasing a video series soon for UAS pilots on that very topic. Remember, temporary flight restrictions are serious business. Flying into one without an authorization creates an unacceptable security and safety risk. So what I want to do now is show you how the TFR website works. So I'm just going to pull up the web site here, and at first glance, it's going to give you a list of all the published TFRs across the country. And while that's certainly good to know, most people want to know where the TFRs are around their particular area. The good news is you can filter this down, and maybe the most easy method to filter would be by state.
So if you know the particular state you're going to operate in, you can select it from the drop-down menu. So for today I'm gonna select my home state of Minnesota. Once you do that, you can select 'go,' and it will display a TFR list of published TFRs for that state. Now important to note here that just because a TFR is listed doesn't necessarily mean it's active now or will be active or inactive at the time you want to fly. In order to find out more about the TFR you need to drill down, and fortunately, there's an easy way to do that: by clicking on the hyperlink under the NOTAM column on the TFR website. you can drill down to find more information about the TFR.
One of the first things you're going to notice is that you'll see the graphical representation of the TFR against an FAA aeronautical chart. In addition to that graphical representation, you can see the NOTAM number, the time of day and the times when it's effective, the altitudes that it's effective at, what the hazard is within that TFR, and maybe most importantly, towards the bottom you can see what we call 'other information,' which provides you an opportunity to understand who's controlling that TFR, and how to contact them if you need more information or need to request access to that TFR.
So you can see: researching TFRs prior to flight is a simple and quick process. Now, restricted and prohibited areas are technically called special use airspace. These are areas where due to various reasons, manned and unmanned aircraft operations are either not allowed, or are allowed only with certain limitations placed upon them. Prohibited areas contain airspace where the flight of aircraft, manned and unmanned, is not allowed. They are established for security or other reasons associated with the national welfare. You may not fly within a prohibited area. Restricted areas contain operations that are hazardous to non-participating aircraft. And non-participating aircraft are those aircraft who are not part of the ongoing activity within that area. And restricted areas are where aircraft operations — while may be not wholly prohibited — are certainly subject to additional limitations to ensure safety.
Activities such as artillery firing, aerial gunnery, or guided missile testing are all contained within restricted areas. Additional areas where the flight of both man an unmanned aircraft may be restricted can be found in the special air traffic rules portion of the FAA regulations Sometimes referred to as part 93 restrictions for the rule they come from, it places additional limitations on aircraft flying near places such as Niagara Falls, the Grand Canyon, or the Washington DC metro area. These additional limitations may restrict aircraft types, altitudes, speeds, and operating hours. Locations of special use airspace can be found on FAA aeronautical charts. Additionally, you can find the controlling agency and contact information on the chart side panel. FAA aeronautical charts can be accessed for free through our website at https://faa.gov/go/vfrcharts So this concludes our segment for today. Thank you for joining us for the presentation portion. Our next episode will be on May 9 at 4:00pm Eastern time, and we'll help you identify what airspace you're operating in. As always, you can find additional information on our webinars and resources on our website at https://faa.gov/go/dronewebinar So at as time please, continue to submit your questions to our team of subject matter experts.
We're going to take just a short break and then when we return, we'll be able to take some of your questions on the air, read the question, and provide you with the answer. So please continue to submit your questions. We're going to take a short break and be right back. Thanks for your attention. Okay welcome back! This is the live Q&A portion of our presentation here today. And the way this works is: I know a lot of you been submitting questions into the Q&A pod for our team of subject matter experts and that's much appreciated. If you do want your question to be read live on the air you preface that question with the word l-i-v-e, 'LIVE', and it will go through a process, and then will be submitted to me and I can read that question live on the air.
We do have some questions rolling in, and I would remind everybody that if you're not seeing an answer to your question, either provided by one of our subject matter experts, or by myself by reading it on the air, you do not need to enter that question again. We do have your question. Just based on Tuesday's performance, we had a lot of people submit some really good questions, and we have people answering them as quickly and comprehensively as we can, but unfortunately during our time constraint today, we're not always able to answer everyone's question. So during this portion, feel free to keep submitting your questions that you have and you want information on: airspace, or NOTAMs, or TFRs to our subject matter experts.
But we'll start with some of our live questions because we do have some rolling in here right now. And one of the first question coming in is: Will this presentation and the slides be available for download? And the answer is yes; we will make each presentation and the slides available for download on our website that I just gave you a little bit earlier. That website is: https://faa.gov/go/dronewebinar. It's also where we will be posting all of our recordings and where we post the question and answers that we receive during the webinars. We will post them to that website as well. So it'll be a bit of your one-stop shop for all the information you need for our airspace series. So thank you for that good question. Another question coming in is: Are there any circumstances where UAS pilots need to publish NOTAMs via flight service (for example), to notify manned pilots of UAS operations with authorizations to fly in controlled airspace, or for any other purpose? This is also a very, very good question. When we're talking about publishing NOTAMs, where a drone operator would call up flight service and ask that a NOTAM be published on their behalf, We really want to make sure that we're doing that for the right purposes.
Some particular UAS operations, namely those that are operating under a certificate of authorization or a co-op, may be required to submit a NOTAM prior to flight. But for the vast majority of operations under part 107, and certainly for recreational fliers, you do not need to file a NOTAM prior to flight. And this is inclusive of operations within controlled airspace. For example: If you're operating under part 107 and you have an airspace authorization, and you're flying within, let's say class Delta airspace, air traffic is already aware of your operation. They've seen your requests come in, it's been approved, so they know you're out there. So filing a NOTAM really doesn't add an additional level of safety to that particular operation. So for most UAS flights, again under part 107 and recreational, a NOTAM is not needed. It's a very good idea to check for NOTAMs, and certainly if you're conducting an operation where you feel it's a little bit different, and maybe not everybody is aware of what you intend to do, finally a NOTAM is definitely a safety measure, a risk mitigation you can take but not required.
So that's a very, very good question. Looking through, we have a few more questions coming in. One of the questions here that's coming in is, and I get this too a lot: is there such thing as a DROTAM? Which is D-R-O-T-A-M — some people call it a drone NOTAM. Um, kind of yes, and kind of no. In the FAA, we publish NOTAMs, and that's the only thing we publish. It's a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM). We don't publish DROTAMS — which some people call Drone Notices to Airmen, but certain third-party vendors will take the FAA's NOTAM database and filter out anything other than UAS NOTAMs.
In those cases, they'll publish them on their own websites or through their own apps and call them DROTAMs, meaning that it's a drone NOTAM. So, while there are DROTAMs out there, they are third party vendor applications, and they're not something that the FAA publishes as a standalone. Alright, so a few more questions rolling in, I'm glad we're getting a chance to take a look some of your questions live on the air. Let's see if I can go with this one here: If you live in a small town where any airspace falls within five miles of an airport with no tower, and a hospital with a helicopter, and under part 107, do you still have to ask for authorization? Another good question.
A lot of times, people get a little bit confused and blur the lines between what was a recreational rule and what is a rule under part 107. While operating under part 107, you are not required to give a notification to an air traffic facility or an airport operator prior to flight. What you are required to do is receive an authorization if you intend to operate in Class Bravo, Charlie, Delta, or surface Echo airspaces around an airport. So while a notification is not required, you would need to receive an airspace authorization if you're operating in any one of the areas outlined in 107.41. Now a lot of airports, in fact maybe the majority of airports within the United States fall within Class G, Class Gulf airspace. Class Gulf airspace does not require an air traffic authorization prior to flight.
So if the airport or helipad or seaplane base is located within Class G airspace, and you're operating under part 107, an authorization would not be needed from air traffic control, and notification to the airport operator would not need to be made. So a very good question. Another question coming in here on part 107 is about the knowledge test: Specifically, is there a part 107 recertification test? This is roughly within the last few months where this has started to become a reality for a lot of folks who are certified under part 107 as their currency begins to expire after the 24 calendar months, or after two years when they'd received their certificate. So yes, there is absolutely a recurrent test available for part 107 operators, and depending on your airman certificate status, meaning if you are already a certificate airman under part 61, meaning you fly manned aircraft, there is a method for you to go online and you can do that via the course which you probably took to receive your initial part 107 certification as well. There are certain criteria with that, meaning you need to be current and so on and so forth. If you are a solely part 107 certificate holder, you will need to go to a knowledge testing center and take either the initial, which you can take the initial again, or the recurrent knowledge test for your part 107 certificate.
Once you take and pass those tests or courses, you will then be considered current for another 24 calendar months — from the date that you took the test. So another very good question. A lot of them are coming in here now. Let me try to get to a few more of them. This question comes in: Is it okay to fly a drone within a TFR area as long as you are flying below building height? For example, in a downtown building area flying below the building height. Going back to what I said earlier in the presentation, temporary flight restrictions shut down the airspace, and they typically shut it down from the surface usually up to somewhere around 18,000 feet above sea level. So in most cases, operating in a TFR regardless of how low you want to fly, or what other structures that are around you that you're operating below, is not going to work.
And I say most of the time because TFRs, as you as you may remember from the presentation, can be custom designed, meaning that while let's say they're circular shaped, they may have an inner and outer area, and maybe that outer area doesn't begin until 3,000 feet above ground level. In that case, you absolutely could operate below the TFR if the TFR is not starting until 3,000 feet above your head.
But a lot of times, TFRs start at the surface, and that's why it's very important you go to the TFR website. Take a look at the TFR that you intend to fly around or maybe beneath to make sure that you can do so. Because flying within a TFR is something that we don't want you to do, and quite frankly, it's probably something you don't want to do either. It's just not a good thing. So check the TFR to see if you can operate beneath it; but if it starts at the surface, it starts at the surface.
Meaning whether you're 5 feet or 50 feet, it's still the same restriction. The airspace is still closed down. Alright, so going through some more questions here. One of the questions is about the B4UFLY app, and it asks: Is B4UFLY a legal way to notify the FAA about my flight? Probably need a little bit more information on exactly what you are asking there, but let me see if I can sort of guess my way through it. The B4UFLY app is a tool that we designed primarily for recreational operations.
It contains a lot of really good information about airports about restricted areas, and about temporary flight restrictions. So it's really designed for you to use as a tool to see whether or not at-a-quick-glance, you can go flying in the area that you want to fly in. It's not a notification tool to the FAA, nor is it part of the LAANC service supplier program, meaning you cannot use the B4UFLY app to request an airspace authorization. So if you're operating in an area where you need an airspace authorization, you will either have to submit your authorization request through the DroneZone portal or through one of our UAS LAANC service suppliers. So before you fly out, it's not the tool used to notify the FAA or maybe even request airspace authorization from the FAA, but still a very good tool to provide information to you about the airspace and potential TFRs in the area.
Thank you for that question. Another question comes up related to TFRs. The question is: how soon in advance of a planned flight should I check for TFRs and NOTAMs? My answer is going to parallel mostly what the manned aircraft world does and I'm going to parallel it because it's worked very well for them for very, very long. I would recommend checking NOTAMs and TFRs prior to flight. Now let me expand on that a little bit.
If you're at the location and you're getting ready to go fly, that would be a great time to check TFRs. As you saw from the demo today, checking TFRs is very easy, and quite fast honestly. If you pull it up on your mobile device or pull it up on your computer, and/or you go to the website, Within 60 seconds, you can find out if there's any TFRs in the area. So my recommendation would be to check it as close as possible to the actual flight time that you're going to launch. That being said, it may not be a bad idea, as some TFRs are published in advance or are sometimes what we call standing TFRs, meaning they're valid for a number of months because they're doing some mining or some explosive work, and they're gonna be valid every day from 4:00–6:00 p.m.
It may be a good idea to check TFRs and NOTAMs before you drive six hours to your location, because you'd hate to drive six hours to that location and then pull up the tee of bars and realize that there's been one there for the last two weeks and now you can't fly. So it really depends on what your mission is going to be, but certainly checking TFRs either right before you fly, or certainly before you take a four hour trip somewhere, it's a good idea for planning and safety purposes.
So that's a very good question. Thank you. Let's see if I get this question answered too while we have a little bit of time left. Can you operate a drone within class Bravo, Charlie, or Delta airspace with no active TFRs below a building or tree line? This question is really good too by the way. Thank you for submitting it because it really speaks to a larger misconception we have out there. A lot of folks believe that if they're operating below buildings or below tree lines that they do not need an airspace authorization. For example: In Bravo, Charlie, or Delta airspace because I'm below the trees — what could possibly hit me? The issue is not that there may be an aircraft below the trees; the issue is that you're operating in a controlled airspace, and that is air traffic control's domain, and they need to be aware of all aircraft operating in their airspace at all times, even if you're operating at ten or fifteen feet above ground level, because typically, at least the inner portions of Class Bravo and Class Charlie, and all of class Delta, start at the surface.
So if you're operating within those inner areas, or in a class Delta Airport, you're operating within controlled airspace, and you absolutely have to have an authorization regardless of how low or how much below a treetop or building you are. And that's partly to make sure that air traffic knows that there's a UAS out there. Because one of the things about flying is: when everything goes right, everything goes right. But when it goes wrong, that's when real problems happen; and air traffic needs to know that there's potential out there of another aircraft that they want to keep their other aircraft they're controlling away from.
So the short answer to that is yes — you still need an authorization to operate in Bravo, Charlie, Delta, or any of the airspaces identified in 107.41 even if you're below the treetops or you're below the building heights all. Alright, let's see if I get one more question in here. The question is: Am I allowed to get an authorization to operate a drone within Class Delta airspace or other restricted airspace if I directly contact the airport and get approval? Or do I have to go through the FAA DroneZone process? This will be a great question to finish up on because this is something that comes up quite a bit as well. The authorized method for drone operators to receive airspace authorizations is through the UAS service suppliers and LAANC, or the DroneZone web portal. There are specific guidance that we have issued in advisory circulars, and there's specific guidance air traffic has issue to their controllers that directs everyone to those two options.
So if you do try to call the tower, the answer you get from the tower personnel should be: Utilize LAANC or DroneZone as appropriate. You should not be calling the air traffic control towers to try to receive authorization to fly. That's not something that we want to happen because they have a lot of other duties that are happening in that control facility and they can't take questions and phone calls all day. That was the whole genesis for developing LAANC; was to try to get the U.S.
Community into that airspace in near real-time. The vast majority of UAS operations in controlled airspace benefit from LAANC. Most of the altitudes that you guys want to fly at are acceptable with those grid maps, and we do have a couple of presentations coming up later in this webinar series that specifically talk to LAANC and DroneZone. So you'll definitely want to stay tuned for those. We've gone just a little bit over our time here today.
It's about 32 minutes past the hour, so we're gonna need to wrap up, but I think we've had a lot of good questions today. We really appreciate your engagement. We hope you find this webinar series beneficial — not only for the content that we're providing — but also the fact that it gives you a real opportunity to submit your questions to FAA subject matter experts, and hopefully get them answered during the webinar. But if not, we certainly will answer all of them and post them online for future doing. So one last time, I want to thank you for joining us today. Really appreciate your attention. I hope you guys have a great weekend. Go out there and fly safe. On behalf of the FAA, I'm Kevin Morris; signing off — have a great day!.