The word, Drone or UAS, congers a number of thoughts to an Airport Manager. Especially given the safety of planes landing and taking off from the Ogden Airport. The Ogden Airport handles roughly 70,000 operations per year. That is either a takeoff or landing by FAA definition. About 200 per day.

The current Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) rules prohibit the use of Drones within 5 miles of the airport. There is of course a remedy which is called a COA, achieved through a FAA application process, and allows for the coordination between the airport, the tower, and the drone operator. Today I will discuss the efforts to include unmanned aircraft into the National Airspace System.

The United States is facing a future in which more and more aircraft will be unmanned or classified UAS. The result of this reality is that regulations are in process that will lay out the rules for all unmanned operators. Along with this endeavor, there is the development of technology which will produce innovations that will revolutionize the aviation industry.

The pace of growth with UAS systems is undeniable. The FAA expects the hobbyist and commercial UAS sales to hit 7 million by the year 2020, of which 4.3 million would be hobbyists and 2.7 million to commercial operators. We have even heard about Amazon exploring a delivery system of packages by drones.

There are FAA data systems that have started documenting the problem of UAS and manned aircraft. For instance during a recent reporting period there were 600 incidents wherein the UAS was sighted near a piloted aircraft. Of those 600, 327 were considered dangerously close and in 28, the pilot had to maneuver to avoid a collision with the UAS.

The FAA first addressed this issue in the FAA Modernization Act and Reform Act of 2012. In August 2016, the FAA enacted the first operational rules for use by commercial operators. The rule creates safety regulations for unmanned aircraft under 55 pounds. The real issue today becomes the hobbyist who buys their drone but doesn’t do all the required steps to operate their drone appropriately in the National Airspace system.

There are new regulations being worked on to address height and speed, flights over unprotected people, say at a sporting event, and better definition of distance from airports. An UAS operator caught violating current rules can expect heavy civil fines upwards of $10,000.

So to the hobbyist with their new drone. The restricted distance for operations near an airport is still 5 nautical miles and the airport does not give permission without a COA.