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I recently registered my new 250 class Quadcopter with the FAA under the Part 107 sUAS code. I want to fly within the regulations, and the only one that I'm really unsure about how to abide by is the "notify ATC" restriction.

I live within 5 miles of a couple small airports in the California South Bay, which apparently makes me need to legally notify nearby ATC whenever I fly. How can I do this?

I saw this other post which talked about how to find the telephone numbers for ATC in your area, but are these the people I need to call? And if so, with what information would I need to give them? I also saw this other post that discusses how to call ATC, but is the information there current and relevant to my flights?

Thanks, Neil

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  • $\begingroup$ At first glance this looks like a possible dupe of the second question you mentioned. What exactly is not answered in it? Or are you just concerned that the information may be outdated? $\endgroup$ – Pondlife Feb 8 '18 at 3:00
  • $\begingroup$ I'm mostly concerned with the latter, @Pondlife. I saw this FAA article that says that I need to give the FAA 90 days notice to my flight, and this other article that says I can do it from an app. Both sources appear to conflict one another, and I just want to be sure that I am doing the right thing. $\endgroup$ – ifconfig Feb 8 '18 at 3:25
  • $\begingroup$ I really don't want to have to wait for 90 days for permission to fly, especially since my decisions to fly may very well be spur of the moment decisions. $\endgroup$ – ifconfig Feb 8 '18 at 3:31
  • $\begingroup$ @ifconfig The first link in your comment is regarding Part 107 waivers. Since you're talking about notifying ATC when you fly, I'm assuming you're flying as a hobbyist instead, and so getting a Part 107 waiver doesn't apply. $\endgroup$ – Dranon Feb 8 '18 at 14:28
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    $\begingroup$ @ifconfig That said, I am sympathetic to your question. There are currently two answers on the second question you mentioned, neither is marked as the answer, and only AJ Henderson's is complete and correct. I'll write an answer later today if no one else does first. $\endgroup$ – Dranon Feb 8 '18 at 14:31
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If you are flying as a hobbyist

If you are flying as a hobbyist, which seems to be the case, you are required by Public Law 112-95 FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 section 336 to:

(5) when flown within 5 miles of an airport, the operator of the aircraft provides the airport operator and the airport air traffic control tower (when an air traffic facility is located at the airport) with prior notice of the operation (model aircraft operators flying from a permanent location within 5 miles of an airport should establish a mutually-agreed upon operating procedure with the airport operator and the airport air traffic control tower (when an air traffic facility is located at the airport)).

This, of course, does not say how you are to contact the airport operator and air traffic control. The traditional way would be to find the telephone numbers for the airport and air traffic control, and to call them. Alternatively, as you discovered, some mobile phone apps allow you to electronically submit notices to some airports. What is not required or desired is to contact ATC by radio. If you are operating very near an airport, it may be a good idea to get a radio so that you can listen in.

If you are flying under Part 107

If you are flying under Part 107, you do not have to contact the airport or air traffic control even if you are within 5 miles of an airport, but you must not fly in controlled airspace without obtaining an airspace authorization or airspace waiver. These processes are, at this time, handled through the FAA Drone Zone website, and not by contacting the airport or ATC. Depending on the terms of the authorization or waiver, if granted, you may be required to contact ATC prior to operation, and they will need a way to get in touch with you.

Which rules do you need to follow?

Broadly, if you're flying for fun (e.g. as part of an enthusiast group, in your back yard, or taking personal photos in the park (although watch out for people as per the safety guidelines you are following)), you are a hobbyist, and subject to the special rule for model aircraft.

If you're flying for commercial or business purposes (e.g. taking photos of houses for real estate sales, inspecting railroad tracks, or delivering purchased packages), you need a Part 107 license and to fly under Part 107 rules.

For more information, see the FAA's sUAS FAQs and the table on page 11 of the FAA's interpretation of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft (pdf).

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  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for the clear explanation, @Dranon. The waiver situation makes more sense now. $\endgroup$ – ifconfig Feb 8 '18 at 16:03
  • $\begingroup$ My only question is what is the difference between flying as a hobbyist and needing a Part 107 license. When is one required or better to use over the other? $\endgroup$ – ifconfig Feb 8 '18 at 16:04
  • $\begingroup$ @ifconfig I added a small section to address this. It's only a broad overview, but it should serve for general purposes. $\endgroup$ – Dranon Feb 8 '18 at 16:41
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you very much, @Dranon. The explanation was more than sufficient.' $\endgroup$ – ifconfig Feb 8 '18 at 18:10

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