NEWS | Dec. 22, 2015

What You Need to Know About UAS & Recreational Use

By Courtesy of Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs JB Charleston PA

Editor's Note: The below article outlines necessary information and resources on Unmanned Aerial Systems, such as drones or remote piloted aircraft, and the current policies in place by the Federal Aviation Authority.  Anyone who owns or is looking to own one of these devices should be very familiar with FAA policies and restrictions before operating.  Additionally, base personnel and their families should be aware that local policy for Joint Base Charleston is currently being developed and once finalized it may provide additional restrictions on use. Once finalized, this policy will be publicized.

Much news has been broadcast lately regarding Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) (i.e. drones) and flights within restricted airspace including landing on the White House lawn.  Recently, Headquarters Air Force issued policy guidance clarifying when instances of unauthorized UAS operations on DOD facilities must be reported via Operational Reporting-3 channels. 

Due to obvious OPSEC concerns, any military member who observes a UAS positioned to provide observation of military operations (Alert taxi drill, MTS refueling, etc.) must report this activity to Security Forces at 963-3600. Once notified by Security Forces, commanders will then report via OPREP-3 channels.

This guidance isn't meant to curtail hobbyist flight of model aircraft on JB Charleston except in circumstances that could create an operational risk to an ongoing military operation.  When flown within five miles of an airport, the Federal Aviation Administration requires the operator of the model aircraft to provide the airport operator or 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 five miles of an airport should establish a mutually agreed upon operating procedure with the airport operator and the airport air traffic control tower, according to a recent FAA Advisory Circular. Additionally, recreational flights cannot fly higher than 400 ft. and must remain in line of sight.

Personnel are encouraged you to view and share the following brochure titled, "Know Before You Fly": http://knowbeforeyoufly.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/KBYF_Brochure_WEB.pdf.  

"Know Before You Fly," is an educational campaign that provides prospective unmanned aircraft users with the information and guidance needed to fly safely and responsibly.  This guidance was released in coordination with the FAA and industry partners and offers a series of tips for recreational flyers.

Users should be aware the FAA released a requirement to register UAS beginning December 21, 2015.  If you own a drone, it must be register with the FAA's UAS registry. Federal law requires unmanned aircraft registration and users are subject to civil and criminal penalties if they do not register (http://www.faa.gov/uas/registration).  

There are multiple outlets in the Lowcountry for military members to fly UAS without placing military operations at risk.  Members are encouraged to visit the Academy of Model Aircraft website at www.modelaircraft.org to find local clubs and www.knowbeforeyoufly.org for further information. 

Additionally, the FAA offers a wealth of information on tips, rules and restrictions at the following website: https://www.faa.gov/uas/. Also the FAA provides Operating Standards for model aircraft through the following circular: http://www.faa.gov/regulations_policies/advisory_circulars/index.cfm/go/document.information/documentID/1028086.

The Air Force also recently published an article about this topic and outlines tips and resources to educated users before flying their UAS: http://www.af.mil/News/Commentaries/Display/tabid/271/Article/630940/tommy-got-a-toy-drone-for-christmas-whats-next.aspx