What are UASFMs?
sUAS pilots, both commercial and public, need to develop protocols for ensuring safe flights through planning procedures. One of the newest sets of information pilots can utilize for planning in the classified airspace is the UAS Facility Maps or UASFMs. These maps directed in FAA JO 7200.23A effective August 1, 2017, are being used by Air Traffic Control (ATC) to evaluate Part 107 requests based on location and altitude of flights. These maps are like supplemental charts that pilots use to get more information about a specific airport.
This information becomes extremely necessary for those wanting to receive waivers within five miles of a classified airport. The maps are to help facilitate coordination and save time to get your waiver. For instance, if you want to fly 3.5 NMs from a Class E airport, you submit a waiver to the FAA’s DroneZone portal and state that you will fly below 200 ft. AGL, which in most cases will most likely get you approval on altitude and distance parameters to the airport.
Each airport has their own UASFM based upon runway location and traffic pattern. The FAA as part of JO 7200.23A states that the following requests Headquarters can approve, anything outside of these parameters coordination must be made directly to the controlling facility. Also a section of the JO 7200.23A the FAA states that there must be a minimum of a 1000ft ceiling.
|Operations Between||Operational Altitude|
|0 NM||2 NM||Coordination with facility|
|2 NM||3 NM||Below 100ft AGL unless 400 ft laterally of an obsticle then 200 ft AGL|
|3 NM||4 NM||at or below 200ft AGL unless 400ft laterally of an obsticle then max 300ft AGL|
|4 NM||at or below 400ft AGL, unless 400ft laterally of an obstacle, than max 500ft AGL|
How to plan with UASFMs:
Pilots and Visual Observers need to understand that it is all about risk mitigation. As more sUASs get into the airspace, there is a higher risk to manned aircraft. The closer you get to an airport the higher the risk of collision between a sUAS and planes in the pattern. Most public safety operators understand what risk management is, many commercial pilots in construction also follow safety procedures and risk management. We as professional sUAS pilots need to ensure the safety of the National Airspace by conducting planning before operations and looking for ways to limit the risks to our flights. The UASFMs give the profession another tool to look at for risk mitigation that allows us to determine how safe our operations are, and help us alter plans or add more procedures if need be.
For example, South Bend Indiana’s UASFM shows where different altitudes sUAS might fly with FAA Headquarters approval. In this example, South Bend’s map assigns each segment value of 0-400 and are in 50-foot increments.
A pilot can then determine what altitude they must request flights at to ease approval and limit risks to the operation. Note closer to the airport the lower the height you must fly. Therefore if you are the City of Niles wishing to operate a flood response in Niles Twp along the river, you must submit for a waiver where you are flying lower than 200 ft AGL to get approval from the FAA HQ. Otherwise, your risk of getting the waiver denied is higher.