Hobbyist vs. Commercial: calling the tower for clearance

Should commercial drone pilots be allowed to call the tower for clearance?

  • They should be allowed to call the tower for a verbal OK.

    Votes: 13 76.5%
  • The current method of requesting a waiver on the FAA website is reasonable.

    Votes: 4 23.5%

  • Total voters
    17
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I have a Part 107 Remote Pilot Certificate.

I understand the need for rules/regulations concerning drones. Even if I don't fully agree with a rule or two, I still intend to abide by them. One rule that I think needs to be re-considered by the FAA is the requirement for a commercial drone pilot to request a waiver through the FAA website (up to 90 days wait time) in order to get clearance within a controlled airport (with an active control tower). I had one such situation last month. I called the CT and sought permission to fly near the outer reach of their airspace. Their first question was: "Are you a hobbyist or commercial pilot?" When I said commercial, they immediately said in no uncertain terms that I had to go the waiver route on the FAA website [and sit on my hands until hell freezes over].

Hobbyist, on the other hand, can simply call the CT and get a verbal OK in 5 minutes (see video below).


My question: Why are there 2 different procedures when the 2 missions (hobbyist vs commercial) are identical?? Same location. Same flight path. Same drone. Same altitude. Same day and time. It seems reversed in that commercial pilots (tested and certified; most likely with a better understanding of airspace) would have the easier/quicker route - not the other way around. I don't get it.

Thoughts?
 
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BigAl07

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This is a new and FAST evolving system we are working within. I understand your frustration but the FAA is currently testing a system that could (in many instances but not all) grant almost immediate Airspace approval. It takes time to get the grids and logistics tweaked but it's happening as we sit here and debate it.

Hobbyists were given a "blank check" in 2012 by Congress when they mandated no NEW rules/laws can be passed against hobby/recreational users. They had no idea the Pandora's Box they opened with that ruling.

When you become commercial (it's your choice to go that route) you agree to abide by the NEW rules and laws set forth.

Keep in mind you can also request an Airspace Waiver. IF granted it will give you approval to operate in a specific area for a longer period of time.
 
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re: "...but the FAA is currently testing a system that could (in many instances but not all) grant almost immediate Airspace approval." Details? Will this be a topic at the upcoming 2017 FAA UAS Symposium??

This is from the 2016 Symposium report.....

"The group’s recommendations focused on existing process issues for operating in airport
environments. The burdens placed on commercial operators to conduct legal operations are onerous
and confusing, and the requirement to get a Letter of Agreement (LOA) with an airport is prohibitive,
particularly when both the airport and air traffic control tower are not cooperative. Meanwhile, the
perception persists that recreational users can fly without constraints and their operational limits are
not enforced. The required five mile radius around airports for hobbyists is inappropriate and arbitrary,
and the lack of distinction between airports creates a culture of noncompliance and increases risk.
The group also observed that the industry needs to agree on a unified policy position on this issue,
because the regulatory constraints on the FAA make flexibility almost impossible."
 
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BigAl07

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re: "...but the FAA is currently testing a system that could (in many instances but not all) grant almost immediate Airspace approval." Details? Will this be a topic at the upcoming 2017 FAA UAS Symposium??

This is from the 2016 Symposium report.....

I don't have the time to research this for you but you'll find articles etc online that mention the new system in the works. It works off of a newly designed "Grid System". Each Controlled Airspace now has a grid system in place with different sectors depicting what is a "Safe" flight to a specific altitude. If you request 200'AGL a sector that is safe to 300'AGL you'll get an instant YES. If you request 400'AGL in a sector that is "Safe" only to 100'AGL you'll get an instant DENIED. This is still in TEST phase so it will be a while assuming everything passes approvals.
 
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It works off of a newly designed "Grid System". Each Controlled Airspace now has a grid system in place with different sectors depicting what is a "Safe" flight to a specific altitude. If you request 200'AGL a sector that is safe to 300'AGL you'll get an instant YES. If you request 400'AGL in a sector that is "Safe" only to 100'AGL you'll get an instant DENIED. This is still in TEST phase so it will be a while assuming everything passes approvals.
Now this makes perfect sense - as long as it also applies to commercial pilots.
 

BigAl07

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Now this makes perfect sense - as long as it also applies to commercial pilots.
This is ONLY for Commercial (Part 107) Operations. Remember hobbyist/recreational operators are somewhat "exempt" from new rules/regulations.
 
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I
I don't have the time to research this for you but you'll find articles etc online that mention the new system in the works. It works off of a newly designed "Grid System". Each Controlled Airspace now has a grid system in place with different sectors depicting what is a "Safe" flight to a specific altitude. If you request 200'AGL a sector that is safe to 300'AGL you'll get an instant YES. If you request 400'AGL in a sector that is "Safe" only to 100'AGL you'll get an instant DENIED. This is still in TEST phase so it will be a while assuming everything passes approvals.
recall hearing/reading the Class B grid should be released any day now. Additional Classes released in 50-60 day increments.
 
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Would be nice if ATC would also let you know the max altitude you COULD fly in your grid box so you could adjust accordingly.
 

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Would be nice if ATC would also let you know the max altitude you COULD fly in your grid box so you could adjust accordingly.

I totally agree. But that would make sense and make things easier LOL!
 
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Taking it a step further, just because I create maps for a living, it would be even better if the FAA were to simply publish a grid map for every airport showing max altitudes allowed in each box (color-coded) so us pros wouldn't have to contact ATC at all.
 
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BigAl07

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Taking it a step further, just because I create maps for a living, it would be even better if the FAA were to simply publish a grid map for every airport showing max altitudes allowed in each box (color-coded) so us pros wouldn't have to contact ATC at all.

That's a HOPE! The current idea is to make it all "Ap" based so you look on your Ap and input your desired AGL and hit submit. It sounds great but in theory I can see a whole world of problems it could open up LOL.

I would guess at some point the grids will either be made available or get leaked out.
 
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BigAl07

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Here's a screen shot a friend of mine shared of a "Controlled Airspace Grid"
17021479_10210448302078006_942074574973480256_n.jpg
 
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I don't have the time to research this for you but you'll find articles etc online that mention the new system in the works. It works off of a newly designed "Grid System". Each Controlled Airspace now has a grid system in place with different sectors depicting what is a "Safe" flight to a specific altitude. If you request 200'AGL a sector that is safe to 300'AGL you'll get an instant YES. If you request 400'AGL in a sector that is "Safe" only to 100'AGL you'll get an instant DENIED. This is still in TEST phase so it will be a while assuming everything passes approvals.

Allen, thanks for that insight. Can't wait to see what comes of this. My waivers have been taking about 60 days to pass through the system. I look forward to see what happens.


Sent from my iPhone using PhantomPilots
 
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Publishing the map info (preferably in the request form itself) would make it easier on both the commercial operator and the FAA. Not sure why it has to be such a secret.

The 200' and 100' restrictions off the ends of the runways look a little lenient to me, unless they're going for the standard 100' buffer between manned and unmanned aircraft. Personally, I don't think 100' is enough for (manned aircraft) takeoff and landing zones, as there are far fewer options to the pilot if something goes wrong at low altitude.
 
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Here's a screen shot a friend of mine shared of a "Controlled Airspace Grid"
17021479_10210448302078006_942074574973480256_n.jpg

Hypothetical question (kind of), but if one already has a COA for a given airspace and is able to fly (at generous altitudes) where the 0's are depicted, I am assuming the expectation is when this system is implemented, one would be denied. In that scenario, would there be any "grandfathering" where one could simply extend the COA prior to expiration and maintain the ability to fly in these areas? Not really looking for any answers, just thinking out loud.
 
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BigAl, do you know if the grid system is on hold during the current no-new-regulation phase of the incoming administration? I know it will eventually be resumed, but for the moment my understanding is that they can't even issue airworthiness directives.
 
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BigAl, do you know if the grid system is on hold during the current no-new-regulation phase of the incoming administration? I know it will eventually be resumed, but for the moment my understanding is that they can't even issue airworthiness directives.
I seriously doubt that tha FAA can't issue ADs. Those aren't regulations, they are safety related issues issued within the current structure and operations. The same is likely with the grid system. Again not new regulations, but an attempt to streamline an existing process for the sUAS business community. The Part 107 regulations are already in place. I would think that making it easier for small businesses to operate would be a feather in the FAA's cap with the new administration.
 
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BigAl07

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I am not aware of this being put on hold but take that comment for what you paid for it LOL. It's just a slow process that requires each location to create and submit their grid. Once done (and I think they are pretty much done) they have to be reviewed and approved or modified. It's a back & forth system.
 

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