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Aircraft Band VHF Radio?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by kenundrum, Jun 15, 2015.

  1. kenundrum

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    Has anyone considered using a handheld VHF radio on aircraft bands to communicate with a low flying aircraft to prevent an issue? I can't think of many downsides to this.
    I remember the video of a news crew near the scene of a fire or something complaining about the "drone" and trying to find it and being very condescending to what appeared to be the correct action by the operator. The last two major sailing events in Newport, RI banned UAVs (apparently) due to overly dramatic helicopter pilots' fear of crashing into one. I had a close encounter with what appeared to be a crop dusting helicopter shaving tree-tops in a state park running between cranberry bogs.
    I would think these kinds of situations would have been better with some simple communication between both parties. A simple- hey you're flying way below 500 feet, i'm getting out of your way but descending takes time... let me know when you're done in the area so i can come back and do my thing.
    I know that's an oversimplification, but it's not out of the realm of possibility. As far as i can tell, you don't need a license to operate an aircraft radio if it's used to aid in the safe operation of an aircraft domestically in the united states. The radios themselves are not that expensive and many are available in easy handheld form factors- presumably to use as backups units in small planes. I imagine most planes are tuned to the emergency frequency as well as whatever frequency they're using for other communication, so that would be the universal way to get their attention?
    Does anyone have any experience on this or some thoughts?
     
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  2. IflyinWY

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    Interesting suggestion, and I know of instances where RC flyers are given permission and a VHF radio to monitor aircraft while flying "ON" the airport property.
    FCC licensing was required years ago to use a transmitter on the frequencies which aircraft use.
    Broadcasting on the emergency frequency wouldn't be such a good idea. It sets off alarms. :eek:

    I hope your thread helps us learn more about how this can be done well. :)
     
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  3. ianwood

    ianwood Taco Wrangler
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    Funny you should mention it. I bought one a couple weeks ago for exactly those reasons. I fly in urban areas where helicopter traffic is common. I now bring it with me and tune it to local air to air channels when I am flying in these areas. And just in case any air traffic should be heading for me and I feel I can't get out of the way, I can let them know I'm there. Note that I don't use the radio as a substitute for keeping out of the way of all air traffic. It's really just back up measure.

    One thing maybe someone can clear up for me: Do helis operating below 500ft AGL still report in AMSL? It seems like they're reporting in AGL. It kind of makes sense if they did and as I can only report AGL. It would be easier should I need to let someone know I'm there.
     
  4. Monte55

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    Let's see. A person spends $1000 on a quad and whatever on phone or tablet and then wants to buy the cheapest crap props to use on it. I really don't seeing this person putting out the money for a transciever. What do you call cheap. My 720 channel handheld cost over $300 in 1985. No attack against you but this won't happen. Too many I HAVE A QUAD AND CAN DO WHAT I WANT people here.
     
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  5. IflyinWY

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    It just depends on what the pilot feels like saying at the time. If the field elevation is 1,500 ft msl, and you hear a pilot say "I'm at 300 feet" well, he's at 1800 msl and you've got a real good idea where he is.
    I think it's great you picked up a radio ianwood. You might want to consider picking up a sectional chart to give you some idea of airport locations, frequencies and elevations. :)

    EDIT:
    With much of the LA basin being less than 100 feet above sea level, it won't make much difference what they report.
    I should have said this initially, I believe you will hear pilots report MSL. Listen for the letters "AGL" after an altitude.
    If you hear ATC say "Say your altitude", the pilot should reply with what the altimeter reads, which is MSL.
     
    #5 IflyinWY, Jun 15, 2015
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2015
  6. ianwood

    ianwood Taco Wrangler
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    Not in LA. With 75 helipads in downtown alone, even transiting helis are on 123.025 calling out position and intentions all the time. LAPD, media, private. Sometimes, they're gabbing about where to get burgers when they land.
     
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  7. Ezookiel

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    Here in Australia I believe you need a radio operator's cert to transmit, but listening to the CTAF frequency in your area wouldn't be a bad idea. When I did my licence, there was a temporary hold on the issue of the radio operator's cert's as part of the licence, while CASA get some things sorted out, but will eventually be included.

    A few years ago, before I got into quadcopters, I was at the local lake that I now use for most of my flying, when the air began to reverberate with the sounds of a large low chopper, and it came in over our heads at probably no more than about 40-50 metres. It was our local rescue chopper, and it was called in to look for a wind-surfer that was seen to fall in, and not come back up. Had I had the bird in the air, I'd have had very little chance of getting it down in time. But I have no doubt that the chopper would have made some kind of announcement to air traffic control before flying in that low, so a radio may reduce the risk of problems.
     
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  8. ianwood

    ianwood Taco Wrangler
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    You need the same in the US. I got an FCC VHF radio operator's license when I was a kid. And I would only ever TX if there was an imminent situation.
     
  9. Suwaneeguy

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    In the USA you need a license to transmit on an FAA radio.
    It ain't like citizens band where you just go out to the store and buy one and start chattin away.
    If you start transmitting on the ground, without the ATC knowing who you are, chances are they will triangulate you and have the cops in your face.
    If you're in a high air traffic area, yeah, getting a scanning radio receiver might be a wise thing, but don't buy a transceiver.
     
  10. IflyinWY

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    I've heard pilots report their altitude in AGL. I've actually been sitting up front when it's been done. :p I've also learned it's a rare occasion when you can say "never" without someone saying you're wrong. The good news is, I agree with the rest of your post. :D
     
  11. auen1

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    I bought a 2 way radio to talk to aircraft, "just in case",
    But I quickly realized that while it's interesting to hear what they are saying, I have no business transmitting, anything.

    I think that its more dangerous to play on their airwaves than to fly in their airspace.
     
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  12. cjmwales

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    I also find this mind boggling.
     
  13. Scarecrow

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    Frankly, if you see a low flying aircraft heading towards your location, by the time you have worked out what his call sign is and what radio frequency he is operating on, he will have long gone.
     
  14. cjmwales

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    And in a lot of countries you actually need a radio-telephony licence to legally broadcast on those frequencies.
     
  15. SteveMann

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    If you try to communicate with any aircraft or ATC facility without a station license, you can go to jail. The FAA takes unauthorized radio transmissions seriously, as much as green lasers and drones in the approach path of an airliner.

    ยง87.18 Station license required.
    (b) An aircraft station is licensed by rule and does not need an individual license issued by the FCC if the aircraft station is not required by statute, treaty, or agreement to which the United States is signatory to carry a radio, and the aircraft station does not make international flights or communications. Even though an individual license is not required, an aircraft station licensed by rule must be operated in accordance with all applicable operating requirements, procedures, and technical specifications found in this part.

    Any use other than on U.S. registered aircraft requires a station license.

    Besides that, how would you know what frequency the low-flying traffic may be listening to? As said before, any transmission on the emergency frequency of 121.50 MHz would set off a lot of alarms, and false alarms are sometimes prosecuted. Many low-flying A/C may be listening to the nearest ATC approach control, or the nearest tower or UNICOM frequency. They could be listening to one of the many legal air-to-air frequencies or the CTAF (Common Traffic Advisory Frequency) which varies by location to reduce overlap. If the low-flying aircraft are actually on a search and rescue mission, they have a couple of discrete frequencies they would be using. Or they may be listening to music from their iPOD.

    Even if you did somehow get a ground station license, and figure out what frequency to use, and figure out who you are calling... What would you say? "Aircraft over Podunk, we are operating a drone at 200 ft."?? What is a pilot to do with this piece of worthless information? It they are even as low as 500 ft AGL, their VHF radio range is 31.6 miles, or 200 square miles. So where in that 200 square miles where the aircraft that happens to be listening to the frequency you selected is that pilot supposed to be looking for the drone?

    So, you don't transmit. You listen to the aircraft frequencies. Again, which one? What does something like "Podunk Radio, Cessna 1234 requesting advisories" tell you? How is "Podunk tower, Cessna 1234, five miles" useful? If the aircraft is on an IFR flight plan would you even know what "Vegas Approach, United 123 at HARLS" means? Also pilots only transmit when they need to communicate or when ATC needs to communicate. Even using Flight Following I could easily fly 100 miles between transmissions.

    Unless and until the FAA and FCC establish communications protocols for UAS, I would think having a receiver listening to local aircraft frequencies would be more of a distraction than a useful tool.
     
  16. SteveMann

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    All altitudes in the US are reported as MSL because that's what your altimeter gives you. In fact the only way to approximate the AGL is to know where you are, look at the charts to find the elevation of the nearest airport then subtract your MSL from the altimeter.

    Having done most of my flying on the West Coast from airports generally below 50 ft elevation,I got spoiled. It is a brain provoking process to land at Leadville, Colorado and mentally translate the airport elevation to a pattern altitude in MSL.
     
  17. Hughie

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    Actually, it depends which aircraft you are flying and what type of altimeter you are using. I agree I am splitting hairs a bit here though - but for example, some aircraft use radar altimeters in addition to baro ones.
     
  18. IflyinWY

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    I was in a helicopter, and yes, as Jacob said "splitting hairs". :D

    As for inawood's inquiry about pilots reporting altitude in AGL vs MSL. Well, I tried to answer without creating a distraction to the thread. ;)

    So, kenundrum, I hope I've not confused the issue much. I think it's a great idea to find a way to utilize aircraft radio transmissions to reduce the possibility of an accident/incident.

    Hopefully the thread can return to that topic at this point.
     
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  19. SteveMann

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    I haven't seen a radar altimeter since 1980.
     
  20. kenundrum

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    Thank you everyone for your views, i know that in my first post i was significantly oversimplifying things.
    So- the licensing thing is not a big issue, as a restricted radiotelephone license is not difficult to obtain and costs about $65. However, i don't think that a license is actually required. If the FAA says that anything in the air is an aircraft (especially UAV/UAS), then i believe using a radio on the ground while controlling a UAV could qualify as operating 'aboard' the aircraft while operating domestically as noted in the below excerpt from http://wireless.fcc.gov/services/index.htm?job=service_home&id=aircraft_stations

    On October 25, 1996, the FCC released a Report and Order in WT Docket No. 96-82 eliminating the individual licensing requirement for all aircraft, including scheduled air carriers, air taxis and general aviation aircraft operating domestically. This means that you do not need a license to operate a two-way VHF radio, radar, or emergency locator transmitter (ELT) aboard aircraft operating domestically. All other aircraft radio stations must be licensed by the FCC either individually or by fleet.​

    Again- this point is moot if one goes through the process of getting a license. Scanners i have seen start at around $100 and transceivers started around $200, i don't see this as a huge expense for someone who is looking to do the right thing compared to other costs for various parts like batteries and cases.

    I also did see in the FCC frequency listing the following
    (j) The frequency 122.750 MHz is authoried for use by private fixed wing aircraft for air-air communications. The frequency 123.025 MHz is authorized for use by helicopters for air-air Communications.​
    So- there is at least a starting point for what frequencies may be used for communications. Yes- i imagine that if no one is listening on it, then it won't do anyone any good.
    How do news helicopters communicate with one another when near the scene of a story? I imagine they do something coordinated like agree to go counter-clockwise around the target or something so that they don't smack into each other. I'm not expecting to ask a crop duster or aerial photographer what they had for breakfast, but there should be some way to constructively communicate in those kind of situations. I know the FAA NPRM didn't mention anything about communications between operators and other pilots, but should there be some procedure for it? I obviously am not the first person to wonder about the possibilities, but i definitely have not heard anything on this topic anywhere.
    At the very least, i guess a scanner would be interesting to have as a way of being more aware of what's going on if flying in a relatively high traffic area such as LA.
     
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