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How Close Can Drones Fly to Airports?

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Drone operators should be careful when flying close to airports because their operations can result in safety hazards. Moreover, flying too close to an airport goes against the civil aviation rules prohibiting drones from flying near crewed aircraft.

So how close can drones fly to the airport?

Civil aviation rules dictate that drones must stay 8 kilometers from airports and helipads. However, special situations permit a UAV operator to fly closer to an airport, including conducting a shielded operation.

Since flying a drone near an airport has safety and legal implications, it’s essential to ensure you’re well-informed to avoid contradicting the law or endangering the lives of other airspace users.

Read on for more details on how close you can fly to an airport.

The laws about flying UAVs close to airports #

Federal laws forbid drone pilots from operating their UAVs within 5 miles of most airports or above 400 feet without permission from the FAA and the relevant authorities.

Here are the important points to note about commercial operations (Part 107) near airports:

  • Drone operations in B, C, D, and E airspace require an authorization waiver.
  • UAV operations in Class G airspace are legal without ATC authorization or prior notification to the airport management.
  • Requests for Part 107 airspace waivers should be directed to FAA headquarters.
  • The FAA reserves the right to deny requests for permission that may pose risks to human-crewed aircraft.
  • Requests for airspace authorization through ATC radio communications are never accepted.

While many of the industry leaders make drones with geofencing, a technology that prevents drones from taking off near airports, there are quite a few drone manufacturers that omit geofencing altogether.

It’s the responsibility of drone owners that lack geofencing or GPS capabilities to ensure that they are consistent with the law.

How to legally fly your drone near airports #

While drone operators are encouraged to avoid flying close to airports for safety reasons, some situations might make it necessary. 

If you have to fly close to an airport for one reason or another, you must adhere to FAA laws.

Fortunately, getting permission to fly your drone close to an airport, either for commercial or recreational purposes, is easy. All you need is to get in touch with the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC).

To get authorization from LAANC, you can use any of the third parties approved by the FAA, including:

  • Aloft
  • Airmap
  • Altitude Angel

The approval process varies depending on the third party you use. Here are some of the third-party services you can embrace.

Aloft #

Aloft is available on Android and Apple devices, as well as online through any web browser, and can be helpful in drone flight logging, asset tracking, checklists, live streaming, and getting real-time authorization to fly in restricted and controlled airspaces.

To use Aloft, you must submit a pin in your desired areas of interest on the app and select your desired altitude. Additionally, you will need to submit all the necessary flight data, including flight time. 

Once you do that, you can submit your flight plan, and if it’s approved, you will see your authorization in the airspace.

» MORE: Aloft LAANC Authorization – How to Apply (Step-by-Step Guide)

Airmap #

Airmap is another easy way to help you receive fast approvals to fly close to airports or any other restricted space.

First, you need the AirMap for drones app. Then log in and search for LAANC-enabled airports. Next, create a flight plan and submit it for the LAANC authorization request.

» MORE: Airmap LAANC Authorization – How to Apply (Step-by-Step)

Altitude Angel #

Altitude Angel is a UK-based unmanned traffic management system designed to make it easy for pilots in the US to get fast approval for flying in controlled airspaces. To get altitude Angel, go to their Drone Safety Map site and create an account.

Next, find your desired area of interest to fly and apply for permission.

Geofencing capabilities for no-fly zones #

Flying your drone in restricted areas such as airports can get the drone operator in trouble and risk other people’s lives. Therefore, if you are not permitted to fly in restricted areas, avoid such areas by all means possible.

Geofencing is a virtual wall that restricts drones from flying over restricted airspace. The technology incorporates various technologies, including global positioning satellites, Wi-Fi, and radio frequency identification.

The benefits of geofencing #

Drones with geofencing capabilities are advantageous to drone operators in several ways.

Drone longevity #

Geofencing helps guarantee the safety of the drone, for one.

With geofencing capabilities, the risks of flying into restricted airspace are minimal. Flying into highly sensitive areas such as military bases can result in your drone being shot down.

Airspace awareness and safety #

Further, geofencing helps in increasing airspace awareness. Reliable awareness of airspace is critical for a smooth and enjoyable flight experience.

Airspace is an important aspect of flying a drone. Whether flying for fun or commercial purposes, you must keep your distance from restricted airspaces.

Pilot accountability #

In addition to playing a critical role in preventing drones from intruding into restricted spaces, geofencing is also significant in fostering pilot accountability. In case of attempts to violate the restricted areas, authorities can track the drone and the pilot.

Frequently asked questions #

What happens if you fly a drone in restricted airspace? #

While you may get away with flying your drone in restricted airspace in a small town, that won’t always be the case. 

Flying a drone in restricted airspace can result in a wide range of troubles, including getting your drone shot down or facing legal consequences.

Therefore, if you do not want any trouble with the authorities or risk losing your drones when you infiltrate airspaces, keep away from restricted airspace unless you have the proper permission. 

Additionally, you can embrace the B4UFLY app and geofencing to unknowingly minimize the chances of flying over restricted zones.

How high can you fly a drone around airports? #

How high you can fly your drone around airports is specified by the height grids for said location when requesting LAANC. In some areas, it might be as high as 400 feet, whereas, in others, it might be 100, 50, or even 0 feet.

However, drone operators are required by the FAA to ensure they have their drones within their visual line of sight whether flying in controlled or uncontrolled airspace.

How high can a drone be before interfering with aircraft? #

The FAA permits UAV operators to fly their drones to a maximum of 400 feet. That could mean that going beyond 400 feet may result in the drone interfering with the crewed aircraft.

Furthermore, 400 feet is enough for a drone to execute many projects.

Where are drones not allowed? #

Drones are not generally allowed to fly in airports, airfields, helipads, runways, and airstrips, and the reasons given for this are very clear and genuine.

Additionally, you should refrain from using your drone to obtain images of a person or private property without proper permission from the involved parties.

How do I notify the airport of drone flights? #

Since the airport is a restricted airspace, you need to get permission from the relevant authority before you can fly.

In many cases, this can be obtained through LAANC. In areas where LAANC is not available, the FAA requires UAV operators to provide prior notification to the airport authorities when flying within 5 miles of an airport.

This approval process can take up to 90 days.

Thus, If flying where LAANC is not available, it is advisable to give yourself plenty of time for the approval process and plan accordingly.


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