UAS Facility Maps Made Available to UAS Operators

May 2017

As part of the FAA’s policy governing the commercial operations of UAS in the National Airspace System, there are altitudes and areas in which operators may not fly. Limitations in terms of maximum altitude and restricted areas have existed as part of the FAA’s UAS policy from the period of time when Section 333[i] exemptions were required to operate commercially and continue to the present Part 107[ii] era of UAS operations.

When enacted in 2016, Part 107 lifted many of the bureaucratic hurdles that existed under the Section 333 regime, providing for a more streamlined process to become authorized to conduct commercial UAS operations. However, one vestige of the Section 333 era which is unlikely to ever go away, that of the allowable altitudes and airspaces for UAS operations, has continued to vex many UAS operators.

Under part 107, operations may be conducted by properly authorized operators in areas and at altitudes which are explicitly set forth therein. Any operations to be performed outside of those allowed airspaces require a waiver from the FAA which may be issued pursuant to formal requests made under 14 CFR §107.41. In order to assist operators in determining whether or not a waiver is required and to streamline waiver requests made by operators, the FAA has begun publishing UAS facility maps which are accessible in several formats through an interactive ArcGIS system.

The first set of maps covering Class E airport maps was released on April 27th, and the FAA will continue to release additional maps covering Class B, C and D controlled airspace in phases once every fifty-six days for the remainder of 2017.

Any operator seeking to operate UAS commercially and not currently in possession of a previously approved Section 333 waiver should consult the UAS facility maps to determine whether the flight will require a Part 107 waiver due to location and airspace of the proposed operations.

This post was written by Transportation & Logistics attorney Garrett Caffee. If you have any questions about the above article or the FAA’s UAS policies, Garrett can be reached at garrett.caffee@fmjlaw.com or 952-995-9500. 

[i] Section 333 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, Pub. L. No. 112-95, 126 Stat. 11 (amending 49 U.S.C.).

[ii] 14 CFR §107.