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Observations from my first experience dealing with NoFlyZones

Discussion in 'Rules and Regulations' started by CRCs Reality, Mar 28, 2016.

  1. CRCs Reality

    Feb 18, 2016
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    Just curious to see some of your thoughts on this..

    Went to spend part of Easter Sunday with the wife's family, who live near a regional airport here in the US (PA to be exact). So I went into this wondering how it would go calling the control tower to get clearance to fly.
    I called the tower on Friday and chatted with a guy there who was pretty helpful, but told me I'd have to call back on Sunday prior to the actual flight and get clearance, fair enough.

    Here's a map of the area, showing the DJI No Fly Zone circle..

    Now, here's where it gets interesting..
    Started at one BIL's house (point 2 on the map) and called the tower as we wanted to fly a Pix4D mapping job.

    The folks at the tower asked for the address, but then told me they didn't know where that was and weren't going to look it up. Never asked for my name, FAA registration, or anything else, just wanted to know the maximum altitude I'd be at (I told him 300') and flight duration.
    Then they told me "We cannot grant you permission to fly, nor can we tell you no. All we can do is make a note of it to inform other pilots in the area."
    Um, OK, so I'm OK to fly?
    "Like I said, we cannot grant nor deny permission, but we have noted it here."

    OK.. Planes never fly over his house (nowhere near an approach path) so we weren't worried. Flew the Pix4D mission without incident. Spent most of the flight between 150-180 feet, but went up to 299 at the end.

    Then we went to my MIL's house (point 1 on the map), and called the tower to update my new location. They were nice about it, but still had the same generic response.

    I should note that at this time I had not seen that DJI had an established no fly zone around this airport.

    Interestingly, the Pix4d app would crash if I even attempted to set a mapping mission from there, no error, it would just crash and restart.
    So I switched to Litchi, where there were zero errors, but I could not fly above 80'. I wouldn't tell me "why" I had an 80' ceiling, it would just stop climbing. As there are trees in the area close to that altitude, I landed and switched to the DJI app.
    Once in the DJI app, I realized what the issue was, as it promptly warned me of the no fly zone, and when I hit the 80' ceiling it told me I had "Bumped into a no fly zone".

    Again, this is a location where it is rare to see a plane overhead, despite it being near the airport.
    But that's fine, I get why the no fly zones exist, and even though I was a bit bummed about it (as I HAD clearance from the tower, or at least communication with them).

    But then the curiosity got to me, and we drove over to my other BIL's house (point 3 on the map).
    This house is directly on an approach path, and small planes fly within a couple hundred feet overhead every 15 minutes or so.
    Let me be clear, I'd be scared to fly here because of this, last thing I need is a close-call with a small plane.
    But, to test I called the tower again with the new location to see what they'd say.. And to my somewhat surprise they had no issue with me flying at the new location (point 3), directly on the approach path.

    Anyhow, I just thought it was interesting, I was the most restricted in the spot with the least danger, and the least restricted in the spot with the most.. Perhaps the NFZ maps could use a bit of tweaking?
  2. Tim in Florida

    Jan 2, 2016
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    Thanks for sharing that.
  3. Multicoptertec

    Mar 4, 2016
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    Apollo Beach, Florida
    The folks at the airport will NEVER give you permission to fly, but you have informed them, so that's all you can do. As I understand it, a no fly zone is just that, DJI app won't even let you take off. Outside of the no fly, there may be a graduated diameter where the altitude will vary as you get closer or further from the NFZ. You will get a warning as you get close to the graduated area. As far as the approach path, what may look like 300' to you, may be much higher. It is very difficult to judge.