FAA Regulations - Clarification

Discussion in 'General' started by Derek Malone, Jan 15, 2017.

  1. After speaking with several of the airport operators and FAA people here in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, this is what I understand to be accurate. Please post your opinions or any experiences you may have encountered. I would love to hear other points of view.

    For recreational operations (not commercial), you may fly in Class-B airspace (I only know what that is because I use to fly a small plane) as long as you are not inside the airport or on airport "proper" and if you notify the control tower/airport operator of your flight, AND stay away from manned aircraft giving them the ROW.

    I was also told that the 400ft rule does not apply to hobbyists. I have also been told that it applies to everyone but you can fly 400 ft above a structure.

    Lastly, I've read that when you contact the airport to "notify" them of your flight, they can decline your notification. However, the FAA website specifically says that the operator can object to your flight but cannot prohibit you from flying.

    What are your opinions/understandings on these items?
  2. Here's my understanding. I have a 107 certificate; my understanding of hobbyist flight is not as solid. You may not fly in Class B airspace without air traffic controller (ATC) permission. This applies to everyone, hobbyist or part 107. Permission is now requested via the web link, not by calling the controlling air traffic control center or tower. Hobbyists must adhere to community based safe flying practices, or some such. Those practices set a 400' limit. Hobbyists follow more "suggestions" than rules, I think, but some of these things may be codified as rules somewhere. As for the height over buildings, you can fly up to 400' above the structure so long as you are within 400' of it. (14 CFR 107.51) I believe that the airport operator of an airport in uncontrolled (class G) airspace cannot deny permission for the flight. In controlled airspace (B, C, D, and even E), you need ATC permission, which is not granted by the airport, but by the controlling ATC. As a hobbyist, you are also supposed to notify the airport, but it is not their place to approve or deny your flight.
  3. I was about to post a question but thought it would be a great to post it here after reading your post. In the app I see it records the flight log and that includes everything. If I was to fly within 3 miles of a airport and went above 400' does my flight log get uploaded for the FAA to see? Who can see the flight log? And what's the link to ask for permission? I only have phone numbers.
  4. First, the 400' is everywhere. I don't see how the FAA could get your records without asking. Until you upload to the cloud, it is my understanding that the records stay local on your devices (the drone and the device that is running Starlink.) I assume the cloud is private, and you could share but would not have to. In looking for the link to request permission to fly in controlled airspace, I am now wondering if that only applies to 107 pilots, and recreational pilots may not be able to fly there at all. I'm not sure. One link I found is https://www.faa.gov/uas/request_waiver/, but I'm not sure if it is the one I was thinking of. You can also contact the FAA at UAShelp@faa.gov or call 844-FLY-MY-UA.
  5. After more surfing, it looks to me like hobbyists can fly near airports if they notify the airport operator and the relevant tower. Part 107 operators can operate in unregulated airspace without any notification (many, perhaps most, untowered airports), but must use the link (in the post above) to get a waiver to operate in controlled airspace (which includes pretty much any airport with a tower.) Also see https://www.aopa.org/go-fly/aircraf...actices-for-flying-your-drone-near-an-airport
  6. It is a rule for Part 107 operations. Hobbyists operate under "recommendations." Thanks for the link to an official interpretation.
  7. My pleasure, Laurie. It's the first time I saw an official communication about this. Interesting stuff.
  8. A rant!

    If the 400 foot elevation is a recommendation for the hobbyist then why does Autel hard code a limit of 396 feet for way points. Here in southern central Tennessee that will put me in the trees in many places given the elevation changes. Just on our farm alone we have 330 feet of elevation change. Apply that to the 396 hard coded maximum I am going to be 66 feet above the tops of the hills or IN the trees!

    Yes I have thought about getting to the top of the hills and launch from there but the are TOO MANY TREES.

    Assuming there may be some roads that will get to the top of some of these hills then we have the 1600 foot radius (also hard coded in the software) distance limit stopping us from using that method as well. There are just not that many access points to stay within the 1600 foot radius.

    Combine BOTH of these limitations and my drone went from a land owner tool to a very expensive toy.

    For now both of these limitations are in the GPS way point mission planning but what is to stop them from doing another simple code change that automatically initiates a go home when the 1600 foot limit is hit during flight or just stops at 400 feet elevation when trying to climb above an obstruction. Not a hard thing to code for!

    I can only assume the 400 foot elevation limit is to keep the drones below the minimum 500 foot limit of general aviation aircraft. A sound logical point but general aviation uses the maximum ground elevations printed on the sectional and NOT from a point of takeoff. For the same reasons we need to be able to use the maximum elevation and not the takeoff point.

    Trying to contact Autel on this matter... Anyone else notice a change in support?

    If I am not mistaken both of these limitations have been implemented after the sale of the equipment. Bait and switch? in bed with the feds? Just seems there was not a lot of things disclosed to the buyer that should have been.
  9. Promapper, I share your concerns and aggravation. I too, use the X-Star to survey property, and consider myself a free American who is perfectly capable of following regulation.

    The trend you see is common with Chinese manufacturers. You've probably read that DJI even has proposed a transmitter on all their products continually sending an identification code that could be read only by police, to identify "and control" operators. Thankfully, we don't do things that way in this country but foreign manufacturers fail to understand this. Such an addition would quickly send a message to DJI in terms of lost American sales.

    Autel seemed to shun the geographic limitations that DJI had embraced. After all, we can choose our altitude and I have yet to see an Autel refuse to launch in a "no fly zone".

    Past US administrations have covertly pressured manufacturers to add "back doors" and controlling programming to their electronics to defeat privacy and enforce regulation. I'm not sure if I see that happening here, I rather doubt it in what remains a hobby market but it may lie in the future.

    Have you seen new restrictions added with software updates? We have to keep aware and remain cautious to this happening. I, for one, would rather remain using an outdated application that embrace code that limits the use of a product to guidelines someone else chooses to enforce.

  10. I agree. We all need to monitor this.

    I'm in flatland Missouri but I still don't like the elevation restriction. I also would like to see the drone have the capability to adjust flight height based on ground surface elevation changes. I'm not talking about hitting a tree. I'm talking about the drone adjusting for terrain elevation change. Maybe not possible?
  11. IT was my understanding from reading across a few forums that both the waypoint range and the waypoint elevation were surprises to most users. I did not notice it because I assumed buying my unit new it did have current software. NOT! So I updated BEFORE I tried the waypoint routing.

    Going to try resetting home in the air per Fundy's response in another forum. I will have to create a new reference list as all waypoints are flown at a different elevation if more than 10% different shooting for a maximum pixel size . that being said when I reset home I will have to be at a pre determined elevation. I should just be able to modify the spread sheet a bit. At the least it will create more in air time. Even with 4 batteries I will have to break it up I fear. Trying to photo shoot as quickly as possible to avoid differences in lighting and sun angle.

    The other options are fly dead reckoning from a given start point and make an initial adjustment for crosswind. or along an imaginary lattitude or longitude line. or with a flight map (existing map or satellite image with a flight line drawn on it and try to keep the aircraft over that line. Just too many trees and not enough discreet objects that are visible.

    yes, I checked maximum elevation and it was set at a considerable number above 396 and even zipped up to a "random" elevation "slightly higher" than the 396 but without using the waypoint option. It Will exceed that elevation of 396 but not with GPS waypoint usage.
  12. Why is there a 396 foot elevation limit when planning gps waypoints.

    reply message from Autel. as well as my reply back to customer support.

    "Thanks for contacting Autel Robotics. This limit is in place due to FAA regulations you can adjust the altitude limit under the flight controller settings up 2600FT. This should allow you to adjust waypoints higher "

    my reply; "
    I just went and checked it. I set the elevation in flight controller settings and went back to modify the waypoint. It would NOT let me enter a value higher than 396. In fact if I entered the first number as a 4 or greater it would red out and it I did enter a value higher than 396 I could but could not "OK" out of the screen.

    "Are you saying that the FAA is mandating Autel to set a software or firmware limit?"

    I would like to know if anyone else has verified my findings.
  13. looks like a final reply from Autel.

    Hello Greg
    The FAA does not mandate us on anything. These are our safety precations we have put in place. My apologies for the confusion. We will be seeing updates to waypoint mission in the coming months "

  14. At least you have given them something to consider, someone will come up with a fix only when they know of a problem. It is too flat here in Central Ga. for this to be a problem but I do travel.
  15. I made a comment in a post about waypoints someplace. When I contacted Autel about the 1600 foot limit in waypoints they said it was a safety measure. Basically they are trying to follow the basic FAA guidelines. 1. limit your altitude to 400 feet, 2. keep your drone in a line of sight and 3. Keep the drone within a range so people don't do waypoints farther than the battery can handle.
    I think if people keep breaking the FAA rules then the rules could turn into laws. And companies could be made to lock the drone down during all flights near airports. To me it seems like they care about us and our investment, and at the same time respect the FAA rules which is great I think.
  16. I agree. We as owners need to respect the FAA's recommendations as well. Lord knows there are plenty of self centered Americans that can't stand the thought of someone having/enjoying something that they don't. They would love to ground all of us.

    In my flight infancy I am very respectful concerning flight over other's property. Even though I might not be taking pics of whatever I'm flying over the people on the ground don't know that. The natural reaction when seeing or hearing a Drone overhead is to assume they are snooping. The longer we as a group can minimize our intrusion the longer we can enjoy flight.
  17. #18 Trainmaster, Apr 4, 2017
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 4, 2017
    The software limitations and restrictions should be clearly outlined in sales literature specifications. Instead we read claims of "1.3 miles". It stinks that we discover this stuff when we try to do a job we purchased the product to perform.

    Can we trust future software updates not to include more irreversible surprises?

    Sixteen hundred feet? That doesn't get some folks off their own property.

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