Some flight operations are no longer just for the professionals. Residents may see more drone activity in the skies near Eglin Air Force Base, and not the kind performing Department of Defense missions.
According to the Consumer Electronics Association, sales of commercial drones, or as the military calls them, unmanned aerial systems, will reach an all-time high this year, with more than 700,000 expected to be purchased by the end of the year.
“Given the popularity of drones, we anticipate an increase in their use by base residents during and well after the holidays,” said Col. Shane Haughian, 96th Test Wing chief of safety. “We want to ensure residents are aware of the policies in place as flight safety is certainly impacted by aircraft near runways, aprons and approach and departure corridors.”
Federal Aviation Administration statistics show a surge in close call reports by pilots of manned aircraft, with nearly 700 incidents reported this year alone, roughly triple the total number recorded for 2014.
“UASs pose real and significant threats to manned aircraft,” said Haughian. “If you become the latest close call and you’re not following the rules, you may not only to lose your aircraft, but you may be subject to FAA fines of up to $27,500 for the most serious violations.”
FAA guidelines on drones are extensive, but basic rules to consider include the following:
– UASs weighing more than 0.55 pounds must be registered with the FAA and may not fly within five miles of an airport without first contacting and receiving consent from air traffic control tower staff.
– UASs must give way to all manned aviation activities, which include and are not limited to airplanes, gliders, parachutists, etc.
– The operator must remain within visual line of sight of the UAS when in use.
– UASs may not operate over any persons not directly involved in the operation.
For national security reasons, recreational UAS flights are generally not authorized on or over military installations unless authorized by the installation commander, and on Eglin, their use is only allowed in accordance with specific policies. To start, no UASs weighing more than 0.55 pounds are allowed on base or within five nautical miles of any airport while operating on Eglin’s range, said Haughian. Security Forces are permitted to demand hobbyist/recreational use to cease at any time for safety or security.
In addition to following FAA regulations, base residents wanting to test their Christmas spoils will have to follow commander-directed policies, which include operating approved toy-UASs below tree and roof-top levels, staying at least 100 feet away from non-participants, and flying them only during the day in clear conditions.
Users are only authorized to operate drones in base housing areas and are not allowed to use them near the runway, flight line, approach corridors, major roads, government buildings, crowded events and entry control points, said Haughian.
“Families can enjoy their new toys, but with caution,” said Haughian. “Base personnel have some expectation for personal safety and privacy – if you’re unsure of the rules, there are plenty of resources out there at your disposal.”
Article by Jasmine Porterfield, Team Eglin Public Affairs
Photo: In addition to following Federal Aviation Administration regulations, Eglin Air Force Base residents wanting to operate their toy-unmanned aerial systems will have to follow commander-directed policies, which include operating approved toy-UASs below tree and roof-top levels, staying at least 100 feet away from non-participants, and flying them only during the day in clear conditions. Users are only authorized to operate drones in approved area and are not allowed to use them near the runway, flight line, approach corridors, major roads, government buildings, crowded events and entry control points.