Part 107 Airspace Authorization- FAA Webinar Overview

In Drone Law Blog, Our attorneys handle all FAA Part 107 Issues, Waiver & Airspace Authorization by Enrico Schaefer

faa part 107 airspace

[Introduction]: Welcome to DroneLaw.Pro. Today we are going to be continuing some of our in-training and instructional videos on how to obtain airspace authorization from the FAA under Part 107 and how to obtain Waivers.

Listen to this show using media link at the bottom of the article. (see below)

The focus today is going to be on obtaining your airspace authorization.   Now, there has already been one video that we have posted on airspace authorizations (obtain access to the Part 107 waiver and airspace authorizations videos). In the meantime, we had a great program run by Kevin Morris of FAASTeam Program Manager from the Minneapolis Flight Standards District Office. Kevin Morris is with the FAA. He ran an insightful webinar which can be found at this link:

Today, we are going to just focus on the portions of the webinar where Kevin went through FAA part 107 airspace authorizations as we continue to be educated on that issue.

The first thing I need you to be aware of is that there is an instruction manual on the FAA’s “Request Waiver Airspace Authorization” webpage, which is under UAS Request Waiver. These instructions, if you scroll down, are going to tell you some basic information on obtaining and filling out the form with regards specifically to airspace authorizations. And this is going to be airspace authorizations in controlled airspace, which is B, C, D or the surface area of E, meaning those parts of E that reach the ground usually below 700 feet.

Today, what we are going to do is to take a look at Kevin Morris’ video, which specifically dealt with airspace authorizations. We will go through that video and make some comments as appropriate and then we will finish up with some Q&A, some questions that Kevin Morris answered. As part of this webinar, you could actually submit questions and Kevin was good enough within a very short period of time to answer just about every question that was asked. So strap in and get ready to learn even more about airspace authorizations.

Analysis of Kevin Morris FAA Part 107 Airspace Authorization Video:

Now, the other half of that box, the ATC authorization, and this is where I want to clear up a little bit of miscommunication on the questions that have been coming through.

You have only one box to check for an ATC authorization. I will state it again, “The only authorized way for you to receive clearance to operate in Class Bravo, Charlie, and Delta or within that lateral boundaries of Class E to the surface is to work online portal. If you call ATC directly, they should be telling you that. I am certainly telling you that from flight standards. Now you guys know and that is the only process.”

We are not approving air space authorizations until October 3rd. That will be the first date we start to issue air space authorizations. That will be for Class Delta and Echo to the surface airports. The next big date, I believe, is October 31st. That is going to be for Class Charlie airports. The last big date will be December 5th. That is going to be for Class Bravo airports. None the less, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, or Echo to the surface, you must submit your ATC authorization request online.

I am going to explain a little bit more about that:

  • You check the box that you are requesting an authorization. You are not requesting a Waiver to operate in the ATC Class Delta. You are requesting an authorization.
  • You are going to need to specify the maximum altitude in ALG.
  • You must complete the beginning portion in the same manner as you are requesting a waiver. So this is kind of where we are getting to the efficiency. It is a little bit confusing, because it is one form, but it is more efficient because it is just one form you have to fill out. Now we are talking about authorization, not waiver.
  • You will need to put in the latitude and longitude. The reason we do this is because I am pretty sure at this point that every Bravo, Charlie, Delta, Echo to the surface airport has grid mapped their airspace.

What I mean by that is that air traffic has mapped out areas where, for a lack of better term, automatic authorization will happen. Now don’t get all excited, because it is not going to happen right away.

In my earlier example, if you submitted an ATC authorization request, and your latitude and longitude and your altitude puts you in an area that’s 4.8 miles away from the airport’s center in Class D airspace no higher than 20 feet AGL, the chance of a manned aircraft being 20 feet AGL – 4.8 miles away from the airport is extremely remote. Unless it’s probably crashing. The idea is you are going to submit this online. It’s going to be checked against that grid map and these are all our goals. This not something that is happening October 3rd. These are our goals. If you fall into that area, you are going to get an authorization back instantly. But we are the Federal Government so maybe not super instantly as you may know the word, but it would be quick. I’ve had it explained to me on a few different occasions that the theory is that you are standing at the stop that you want to do your UAS operation that’s within the Class Echo to the surface, let’s say. You submit your application right on your mobile device. You go to our web portal. You put in the data. It checks it against that grid, processes it through the system, sends an email to the controlling air traffic facility and gives you an email authorizing you for the time, location and altitude you specify. It may be happening that fast. That is our goal. Again, don’t anybody try to quote me and say that, “Hey Kevin Morris said October 3rd I am going to punch in my cell phone and get authorization right back.” Won’t happen on October 3rd. But that is definitely what we are working towards, so that is why we have to have the precise latitude and longitude.

  • You are going to want to put in a radius. This is additional information for airspace authorizations. Which is the radius from your latitude and longitude point in nautical miles. Put in the nearest airport that you are going to be operating towards and what Class of airspace that is going to be: Brave, Charlie, Delta, or Echo. Pretty straight forward there.

You must answer additional questions here when you are asking for an ATC authorization. There is a bunch of additional questions. If you answer ‘yes’ to any of them, you are going to add description of your proposed operation box and provide additional detail. Essentially, ATC wants to know if you are going to request their authorization they are going to assume that it is going to be daylight. If you are going to operate at night, you need to let them know that you have some type waiver for that so they can expect that type of operations. They have additional information right there on the screen where you put in your authorization request into the web portal. Again, detailed description of your lowest operation. That is helping us to determine whether or not … actually I should say it is helping air traffic to determine whether or not you are going to get an authorization for that location at that time of day.

Just like a waiver, you are not going to be some type of Terminator that is being sent back from the future to destroy anyone, so verify you are not a robot click submit and away it goes. Just like a Waiver, don’t get too worried you do not get a response back right away. In fact, don’t expect a response back right away. Let the system come up to speed in the next couple of months and we will get there. I know it is not perfect and I know that you guys are itching to go right now in all of these classes of airspace. You are frustrated with the FAA because it seems like we are moving slow. I get it! But you are going to have to give it time. It’s just going to take time be sure that everything is done right and it’s done safe.

There are authorization dates, again for those of you who might be wondering what dates I might just mentioned and at least my memory is functioning correctly and I got the right dates. Those are the anticipated authorization dates. That doesn’t mean that if you have requested it now that that is the date that you are going to get it. But that is the date we anticipate beginning, actually air traffic begins to issue their airspace authorizations.

Enrico Schaefer: One of the other great things that Kevin did as part of this webinar is to go through questions and answers both during the webinar and also offline. So people submitted their questions and, about a week later, Kevin answered almost all of the questions. I am going to go through some of the questions and answers that Kevin provided to all of us and show you what he says about the airspace questions. This is a PDF and you can also find this on our website as well as other places on the internet. This is his commercial UAS operations under Part 107 Webinar Question recap. These answers were provided to the best of his knowledge. Obviously, he doesn’t know everything, but he really did a great job of putting as much information out there as he could and as much as he was aware of.   Again, if you want to go directly to the webinar, here is the link being offered by Kevin and the FAA:

Let’s take a look at some of the questions and answers that deal specifically with ATC authorization and airspace.

First question: Q-62. If I am flying within 5 miles of an airport, what do I need to do?

Kevin Morris’ answer: For airports which reside in Class G airspace, Part 107 has no requirement for you to notify anyone.As mentioned, it is considered a best practice to alert the airport operator. If that airport is located within Class B, C, D, or E SFC, you need ATC authorization

However, and we are preaching this as well. There are going to be the Part 107 requirements and then there are going to be industry standards which will be really important if we are going to build trust with the customer basis that you are going to try to get to pay you for services. There has to be trust in the market in order for UAV services to expand and the market to expand. Kevin says and we agree that it is best practice to alert the airport operator if you are close to an airport. If the airport is located within Class B, C, D or E to the surface area, then you need ATC authorization.

Next question: Q-64. If a helipad is associated with a hospital, do I need clearance from them to operate within 5 miles?

And again, everything is airspace specific here. Kevin answers:

Not if the helipad is located in Class G (unrestricted) airspace. Best practices would be to notify the hospital so that any inbound HEMS helicopter is aware of your operation.

And keep in mind that there are still other regulations that you need to comply with when you are operating near a helipad.

Question 71: Is it possible (or at all likely) to get a waiver to operate in “Restricted” airspace near a military air base under Part 107? If so, what is the process?

Kevin answers: Operations in Restricted Areas are governed by §107.45. According to §107.205, that rule is not subject to waiver. As a result, you would need to petition for an exemption (in order to fly in that area).

This is a separate process.

Q-72. If you are flying in any class of airspace other than G, airspace that does NOT go to the surface, do you need to advise ATC?

And you can see a common theme in these questions really deals with what is required and the answer is almost always depending on what airspace you are in.

Kevin answers: ATC authorization is needed for operations within Class B, C, D, and E SFC. If you are operating within Class G, no ATC authorization is needed.

Again, industry standards would potentially require you or advise you to advise the nearest tower.

Kevin goes on: If you are operating within Class E (say you are inspecting a 2,000 ft tall radio tower) (which you can fly 400 feet over the top of), which is not associated with an airport surface area (dashed magenta lines on a sectional chart), no ATC clearance is needed.

If you are in Class G, no airspace authorization.

Q-76. Licensed under 107, can I fly the UAV on the fringe of a class D airspace (but outside of it).

Answer: ATC authorization is only required in B, C, D or E to SFC area.

Q-77. If I’m within 5 miles of a Class D airport but in Class G airspace I no longer need to contact the tower with a remote pilot license?

Again, this five mile rule is antiquated from one source which is Section 333 there were limitation that dealt with distance from the airport. That is no longer the test. You need to know what airspace you are in, you need to check the aeronautical charts to find out what airspace you are flying in and then either get ATC permission or not depending on whether or not you are in controlled airspace.

Kevin’s answer: If you are in Class G airspace, no ATC notification/authorization is required. However, most Class D airspaces extend out to approximately 5 miles. Make sure you are on the “right” side of that airspace!

Again, you will have to check the aeronautical charts to find out whether or not you are in controlled or uncontrolled airspace.

Q-78. Why did the FAA start with Class B airspace and not Class E Surface? Most of us play in this space.

Kevin says: Not sure what you mean, the first ATC authorizations will be for Class D and E SFC (October 3rd).

However, Class B is the most troubling airspace because it tends to be in the highest traffic areas of the NAS. It is going to be the one with the most safety issues and it will be the last one opened up. What is going to happen is ATC authorizations will be in D and E to start on October 3rd. Then we will see C open up thereafter and eventually B starting closer to December.

Q-81. Could we get that US Airspace Class chart?

Airspace class chart is provided. Airspace classifications B, C, & D. G is again unrestricted airspace and you are good to go without permission from ATC. If you are in Class B, Class C, and Class D, you need to use the FAA’s website and obtain ATC permission.

Q-94. Can I get multiple locations authorized by ATC for a single airspace (Class D, for example)?

Kevin’s answer: Possibly. When you request your authorization from ATC, you will need to enter a central point, but then are allowed to input a radius. Depending on how large your radius is, you may only need to submit one request, or you may have to submit others.

It all depends on the center point and the radius. If that spans too different controlled airspaces then you will be able to use that single submission and you would get permission for both.

Q-96. What’s the difference between an airspace authorization and an airspace waiver?

Great question. Kevin answers: The authorization is what most sUAS operators will need. This gives you permission to operate within Class B, C, D, or E SFC airspace. The airspace waiver would give you permission to operate in that same airspace without receiving ATC authorization.

It is a waiver and, therefore, the waiver is from ATC permission. Keep in mind that under Part 107.41 you can get a waiver for operation in certain airspace. So you can get a waiver as opposed to authorization.

Q-106. Can you get a COW (Certificate of Waiver) for operations within a certain airspace for a long period of time (2 years) instead of completing the on-line airspace authorization and waiting for days before a flight operation?

This is really important. Kevin’s answer is really important here: The goal is that you won’t have to wait days for your ATC airspace authorization, but for the process to be near-instant for most requests. If you are going to request a waiver for operating in Class B, C, D, or E SFC airspace, you will need to identify to the FAA very solid reasoning why you should be allowed to operate in that airspace without requiring specific ATC authorization.

That is going to be hard to get and is hard to even imagine circumstances which would apply there. I am sure there will be some that come down the pipe, but essentially you need to go through the website and you won’t have to ultimately wait that long because they are going to streamline the process as you heard in Kevin’s presentation.

Q-111. Could I submit an Authorization request for class B airspace with a begin date of Dec 5th and an end date of Jan 5th?

Kevin’s answer: Yes, although you may not receive approval starting December 5th and you may not have authorization through January 5th. It all depends on where, when, and how high you want to operate.

What Kevin is saying here is whether or not you get the authorization and what is required is all going to depend on where you are looking to fly in Class B. Each Class B airspace will have its own set of criteria and locations which have specific requirements. So you can request a period of four years under the website for airspace authorization. You can get these airspace authorizations for very long durations and that should help you out.

Q-112. Could you give me an example of a situation needing an ATC authorization to operate in Class E airspace?

So there is a lot of misunderstanding about Class E airspace.

Kevin’s answer: Class E airspace not associated with an airport surface area does not require ATC authorization. If you hold a waiver which grants you relief to operate at altitudes other that provided for in Part 107, your waiver may require you to receive ATC authorization.

Essentially it is the surface area of Class E. When you have surface area Class E, you need to get ATC authorization. If you are flying under Class E airspace that begins at 700 feet, you do not need to get ATC permission. Of course, if you have a waiver, then whether or not you have to get ATC permission will depend on the limitations of the waiver.

Q-113. Part 107 says to get authorization from ATC to operate in controlled airspace. Why did FAA then distribute JO 7200.23 telling ATC not to grant authorization?

Good question. Some people early in this process are simply calling ATC and getting permission by phone. The FAA is trying to shut that down and is advising both drone pilots to go to the website and advising ATC to direct people to the website if they request. They do not want ATC giving authorization over the phone.

Here is Kevin’s answer: When an operator requests ATC authorization through the online portal, that request is granted/handled by Air Traffic Control. ATC personnel are not supposed to be giving authorizations outside of the portal requests.

They are trying to shut that down.

Q-116. Do I have to submit two ATC Authorization requests for a project that may intersect two airports? One airport would intersect class D airspace and the other would intersect E to the surface.

Kevin answers: No. Your one request will have a focal point and then a radius. Your authorization would be valid for that area.

This is going to get you whatever airspace authorization you may need.

Q-117. Can UAS operators under part 107 obtain a letter of agreement with ATC facilities in lieu of having to get individual airspace authorizations through the FAA website?

Answer: No.

The letter agreement with ATC is something we saw in the 333 period. If you are flying under a 333 and you select that method, then the answer could be ‘Yes’. But under Part 107, the answer is ‘No’.

That covers the question and answer period of Kevin’s presentation. We hope you enjoyed this waiver, airspace authorization and training video by DroneLaw.Pro. We invited you to visit our website to see what products and services we are offering to Part 107 pilots and operators.

Until next time, my name is drone attorney Enrico Schaefer.