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I would like to apply for a waiver to fly a UAS to take pictures over the campus at Seattle Pacific University that is located just south of Portage Bay in Seattle but I'm told that can only be done in Class G airspace. Is there any Class G airspace in that area? Thanks. Alan Rither

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  • $\begingroup$ Is this the location you are asking about? If so, SPU is located under Class G airspace up to 1200 AGL. However, it is close to the Kenmore seaplane base. You reference waiver. Would this be under §107? $\endgroup$ – J Walters Jun 23 '17 at 4:45
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    $\begingroup$ As a pilot who flies for Kenmore Air, I appreciate your professional attitude toward flying your UAS. Please be aware that the location you've described is exactly within the departure corridor for seaplane traffic out of Lake Union (W55). Kenmore Air alone has 50+ outbound flights/day through there, 8 am - sunset, climbing, between 500 and 800'. Add to that multiple scenic flights by Seattle Seaplanes, other float traffic from Renton (W36) and Kenmore (S60), helicopter training, banner towing, Coast Guard and TV helos... This is an EXTREMELY busy low-altitude air corridor! $\endgroup$ – user45726 Jun 23 '17 at 5:39
  • $\begingroup$ I don't know the regs regarding your intended UAS flights, but if a waiver isn't required please contact me directly and I'll help put you in contact with the commercial firms that utilize that corridor, so as to advertise your intentions as widely as possible and thus minimize conflct in that flight corridor. $\endgroup$ – user45726 Jun 23 '17 at 5:44
  • $\begingroup$ How could I forget: SPU is under the flight path for King County International Airport (KBFI), one of the nation's busiest non-hub airports. I hope my comments here have impressed upon you the density of low-altitude commercial and GA traffic precisely where you intend to operate! For everyone's sake (particularly my ass!) please use care and diligence!!! $\endgroup$ – user45726 Jun 23 '17 at 6:07
  • $\begingroup$ And because what you're proposing personally terrifies me as a commercial pilot operating there daily, I urge you to become better aware of the geography annd points of reference within which you intend to operate. For example, SPU is NOT "...located just south of Portage Bay...". SPU is located just south of the Fremont Cut, which is a sect $\endgroup$ – user45726 Jun 23 '17 at 6:16
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It appears that Seattle Pacific University is located 14NM north of the SEA VOR on the 350° radial. This puts the university under class B airspace.

Over the university, class G airspace starts at the surface and extends upwards to 700 FT AGL, class E airspace extends from 700 FT AGL up to 3,000 FT MSL and class B airspace extends from 3,000 FT MSL to 10,000 FT MSL.

From a regulatory standpoint the FAA has a set of guidelines that are found in 14 CFR Part 107.

There are rules stating you cannot fly an UAS over persons who aren't part of the flight or with the traffic area of airports. You also cannot operate in areas where class B, C, D or E extends to the ground but that appears not to be the case here.

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That area is class G up to 700 feet AGL. As has been pointed out in other answers, if you're doing the flight for any type of compensation you will need a part 107 uas license. Keep in mind that the FAA has a very broad definition of "compensation."

If you are doing this as a hobby then you can fly under hobby rules. There are no waivers under hobby rules. The FAA has been given pretty much a hands-off order by Congress for hobby flight. The regulations they set out are really vague. They refer the rulemaking to non-government entities such as the Academy for Model Aeronautics and ask you to follow their guidelines. Generally if you fly under 400 feet and use common sense (don't fly over people, etc) then you're legal. The only thing that the FAA requires of you under hobby rules, outside of controlled airspace, is that you contact any airport within 5 miles. Here's the catch: there are 13 different airports and heliports within 5 miles of the campus.

If you're operating under hobby rules then you need to find out if the city, county or state has any regulations on drones. This is a very sticky subject in aviation right now, as you can see from user45726's reaction. Pilots are understandably concerned about colliding with drones. I don't live in Seattle, but it seems hard to imagine that planes would have a good reason to be flying less than 500 feet over the campus. Out over the water there, that's a different story, with all the seaplane bases nearby.

That said, there's a lot of aviation activity in that area, so an excess of caution is called for.

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