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Guide: How to Get Class D Clearance for Unmanned Aircraft

by | Dec 31, 2023 | How To

Obtaining Class D clearance is essential for drone pilots who want to fly in controlled airspace. In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the step-by-step process of obtaining Class D clearance for your unmanned aircraft. From understanding airspace classes to utilizing online tools and submitting airspace authorization requests, we will provide you with all the information you need to ensure a safe and legal flight.

Key Takeaways:

  • Understanding the difference between controlled and uncontrolled airspace is crucial for determining if you need to obtain Class D clearance for your drone flight.
  • Conducting airspace research using Sectional Aeronautical Charts or digital tools like VFRMap and SkyVector can help you identify the airspace classes in your intended flight area.
  • The Low-Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) provides quick and convenient airspace authorization, including Class D clearance, for drone pilots.
  • If LAANC does not cover your desired flight area, you can go through a separate manual application process using FAADroneZone to obtain Class D clearance.
  • Follow the step-by-step guide provided to request Part 107 airspace authorization manually and receive the necessary Class D clearance for your drone flight.

Understanding Controlled vs. Uncontrolled Airspace

Before you apply for Class D clearance for your unmanned aircraft, it’s essential to understand the difference between controlled and uncontrolled airspace. Controlled airspace, designated by classes A, B, C, D, and E, requires authorization from Air Traffic Control (ATC) for drone operations. On the other hand, uncontrolled airspace, also known as Class G airspace, does not require prior authorization. Familiarize yourself with airspace classes and FAA regulations to determine if you need to obtain Class D clearance for your flight.

Controlled airspace is usually found around busy airports and areas with high levels of air traffic. It is carefully managed by ATC to ensure the safety and efficiency of air travel. When operating in controlled airspace, drone pilots must comply with specific rules and regulations to avoid conflicts with manned aircraft. By understanding the differences between controlled and uncontrolled airspace, you can make informed decisions about where and how you can fly your unmanned aircraft.

To get a better understanding of airspace classes, the FAA provides resources such as the Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM) and the FAA’s website. These sources offer detailed explanations of different airspace classes and their associated regulations. By studying these materials, you can gain valuable knowledge about airspace classifications and improve your understanding of the requirements for operating in controlled airspace.

Understanding Controlled vs. Uncontrolled Airspace

Airspace Class Description Operating Authorization Required
Class A Generally airspace from 18,000 feet mean sea level (MSL) up to and including flight level (FL) 600. Yes
Class B Generally airspace around airports that have a high volume of instrument flight rules (IFR) and visual flight rules (VFR) traffic. Yes
Class C Generally airspace around airports with a moderate volume of IFR and VFR traffic. Yes
Class D Generally airspace around airports with a control tower and a published instrument approach procedure. Yes
Class E Generally the airspace that is not Class A, B, C, D, or G. No, unless specified otherwise
Class G Generally uncontrolled airspace where drone operations can be conducted without prior authorization. No

Conducting Airspace Research with Sectional Aeronautical Charts

When it comes to understanding the airspace classes and determining if Class D clearance is required for your drone flight, Sectional Aeronautical Charts are an invaluable tool. These charts, provided by the FAA, offer a wealth of information, including topographical features, airports, radio frequencies, and most importantly, airspace classes.

By familiarizing yourself with these charts and learning how to read and interpret them, you gain the ability to identify the specific airspace class in your desired flight area. This information is crucial in determining whether or not you need to obtain Class D clearance before flying your unmanned aircraft.

To conduct airspace research using Sectional Aeronautical Charts, follow these steps:

  1. Obtain the relevant sectional chart for your intended flight location from the FAA.
  2. Study the chart to identify the airspace classes in the area. Class D airspace, for example, is represented by a blue dashed line on the chart.
  3. Note any restrictions or special considerations associated with the airspace classes, such as altitude limitations or communication requirements.
  4. Compare the identified airspace class with the requirements for your drone operation to determine if Class D clearance is necessary.

By utilizing Sectional Aeronautical Charts and conducting thorough airspace research, you can ensure a safe and compliant drone flight within controlled airspace.

Conducting airspace research with charts

Utilizing Apps and Tools for Airspace Research

When conducting airspace research, using apps and online tools can greatly simplify the process. These tools provide digital access to sectional charts, allowing you to zoom in, analyze airspace details, and make informed decisions about obtaining Class D clearance for your drone flight. Here are some popular apps and tools that make airspace research easy:

VFRMap

VFRMap is an app specifically designed for pilots. It offers a comprehensive set of features, including the ability to view airspace classes, restricted areas, and temporary flight restrictions. With VFRMap, you can quickly assess if your desired flight location falls within controlled airspace and determine if Class D clearance is necessary.

SkyVector

SkyVector is another valuable tool for airspace research. It provides digital access to sectional charts, displaying airspace boundaries, airways, and airports. By utilizing SkyVector, you can easily identify the airspace classes in your intended flight area and assess the need for Class D clearance.

Aloft (formerly Kittyhawk)

Aloft is a comprehensive drone management platform that offers airspace intelligence and planning. With Aloft, you can access digital sectional charts, check airspace classes, and receive real-time information on airspace restrictions or temporary flight restrictions. This app streamlines the process of researching airspace and helps you obtain the necessary authorizations for your drone operations.

By leveraging these apps and tools, such as VFRMap, SkyVector, and Aloft, you can efficiently conduct airspace research and determine the need for Class D clearance. These resources provide you with the necessary information to ensure a safe and compliant drone flight.

apps for airspace research

Instant Airspace Authorization with LAANC

When it comes to obtaining airspace authorization, time is of the essence for drone pilots. That’s where the Low-Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) comes in. LAANC is a FAA-approved program that allows drone operators to request near-instantaneous airspace authorizations for flights in controlled airspace. By utilizing mobile or web applications provided by FAA-approved providers like Skyward, Kittyhawk, and DJI, drone pilots can easily navigate the authorization process.

LAANC has rapidly expanded its coverage, now encompassing hundreds of air traffic control facilities and airports across the United States. This makes it a convenient and efficient option for obtaining the necessary Class D clearance. Instead of waiting weeks for manual approval, drone pilots can submit their airspace authorization requests through LAANC and receive approvals in a matter of seconds. This streamlined process ensures quicker access to controlled airspace, allowing drone pilots to focus on their flights.

LAANC has revolutionized the airspace authorization process for drone pilots. With instant authorizations available through FAA-approved providers, such as Skyward and Kittyhawk, obtaining Class D clearance has never been easier. Drone pilots can now navigate controlled airspace with confidence, knowing that their flights are in compliance with FAA regulations.

By leveraging the power of LAANC, drone pilots can save valuable time and resources. The program provides real-time information on airspace availability, including any restrictions or requirements. This allows drone operators to plan their flights in advance, ensuring a seamless and efficient experience. Whether you’re a recreational drone pilot or a professional in need of access to controlled airspace, LAANC is the key to obtaining instant airspace authorizations and Class D clearance.

Advantages of LAANC FAA-Approved Providers for LAANC
  • Near-instantaneous airspace authorizations
  • Streamlined process, saving time and resources
  • Real-time information on airspace availability
  • Ability to plan flights in advance
  • Skyward
  • Kittyhawk
  • DJI

Alternative Process for Authorization Without LAANC

While the Low-Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) provides an efficient way to obtain airspace authorization, there may be situations where it does not cover the specific flight area you desire. In such cases, you can go through a separate manual application process using the FAA Drone Zone website. This alternative process allows you to apply for Class D clearance and other airspace authorizations by providing detailed information about your intended operation.

By accessing the FAADroneZone website, you can fill out the necessary information to initiate the manual application process. This includes specifying the operation parameters such as the start and end date, proposed location of operation, altitude, and a clear description of the flight purpose. While the manual application process may take longer than LAANC, it ensures access to controlled airspace that may not be covered by the automated system.

By following the step-by-step process outlined on the FAADroneZone website, you can navigate the manual application process with ease. Be sure to review all the information you provide for accuracy and completeness before submitting your application. Once submitted, you can monitor the status of your application on the Part 107 dashboard to stay updated on the progress.

Table: Manual Application Process for Class D Clearance

Step Description
1 Create an account on the FAADroneZone website if you don’t already have one.
2 Access the Part 107 Waivers and Authorizations section of the website.
3 Choose the Airspace Authorization option and start the application.
4 Fill in the Operation Title, providing a clear and concise description of your intended operation.
5 Enter the details of the Responsible Party, which can be yourself or a representative of an organization.
6 Specify the Operation Parameters, including the start and end date, proposed location, altitude, and other relevant information.
7 Review the application and submit it for FAA review.
8 Monitor the status of your application on the Part 107 dashboard.

Following this manual application process will allow you to request Class D clearance and other airspace authorizations without relying on LAANC. Be sure to provide accurate and detailed information to increase your chances of obtaining the desired clearance for your unmanned aircraft flight.

Step-by-Step Guide to Requesting Part 107 Airspace Authorization

Obtaining Part 107 airspace authorization is a crucial step for drone pilots who want to fly in controlled airspace. Here is a step-by-step guide to help you navigate the process of requesting airspace authorization through the FAADroneZone platform:

Step 1: Create an Account

The first step is to create an account on the FAADroneZone website if you haven’t already. This account will allow you to access the necessary tools and resources for requesting airspace authorization.

Step 2: Access the Part 107 Waivers and Authorizations Section

Once you have created your account, navigate to the Part 107 Waivers and Authorizations section of the website. This section is specifically designed for drone pilots who need airspace authorization under Part 107.

Step 3: Choose the Airspace Authorization Option and Start the Application

Within the Part 107 Waivers and Authorizations section, select the Airspace Authorization option to begin the application process. This option will guide you through the necessary steps and requirements for requesting airspace authorization.

Step 4: Fill in the Operation Title

Provide a clear and concise Operation Title that describes your intended drone operation. This title should accurately represent the purpose and scope of your flight.

Step 5: Enter the Details of the Responsible Party

Specify the details of the Responsible Party, which can be yourself or a representative of an organization. Ensure that all contact information and identification details are accurate and up to date.

Step 6: Specify the Operation Parameters

Enter the Operation Parameters, including the start and end date of your flight, proposed location, altitude, and any other relevant information. It is important to provide comprehensive details to ensure a successful application.

Step 7: Review and Submit

Review your application carefully to ensure all information is accurate and complete. Once you are satisfied with your application, submit it for FAA review. Be patient, as the review process may take some time.

Step 8: Monitor the Status of Your Application

After submitting your application, you can monitor the status of your request on the Part 107 dashboard. This will allow you to stay informed about any updates or additional information required by the FAA.

By following this step-by-step guide, you can navigate the process of requesting Part 107 airspace authorization through the FAADroneZone platform. Remember to provide accurate and detailed information to increase the chances of a successful application. Now, let’s take a look at the necessary operation details required for a thorough application.

Emergency Authorizations and Operations

In emergency situations, such as natural disasters, the FAA provides quick authorizations for drone operations. These emergency authorizations allow first responders and affiliated entities to rapidly deploy drones for response and recovery efforts. The FAA understands the critical role that unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) play in emergency situations, and they are committed to supporting emergency UAS operations.

When emergency strikes, time is of the essence. The FAA recognizes the urgent need for drone operations to assist in search and rescue missions, damage assessments, and situational awareness. To facilitate this, the FAA has streamlined the authorization process for emergency operations, ensuring that first responders can swiftly deploy drones to aid in their efforts.

While the specific guidelines for emergency authorizations may differ from regular airspace authorization procedures, the FAA provides comprehensive resources and guidelines for emergency UAS operations. These resources outline the necessary steps and documentation required for emergency authorizations and offer guidance on how to navigate the process effectively.

FAA Support for Emergency UAS Operations

The FAA acknowledges the importance of drone operations in emergency situations and strives to provide support to first responders and organizations involved in emergency response efforts. With their commitment to safety and efficiency, the FAA works closely with authorized entities to ensure that emergency UAS operations are conducted in a manner that minimizes risks to both manned and unmanned aircraft.

Through collaborative efforts and effective communication, the FAA and emergency responders coordinate their activities to facilitate safe and successful drone operations. By adhering to FAA guidelines and regulations, emergency UAS operators can operate efficiently within controlled airspace, if necessary, to carry out their missions effectively.

Table: Examples of Emergency UAS Operations

Emergency Situation Authorized UAS Operations
Wildfires Monitoring fire spreads, assessing damage, and providing situational awareness to incident commanders.
Search and Rescue Assisting in locating missing persons and identifying hazardous areas for ground teams, improving search efficiency and reducing risks.
Natural Disasters Assessing infrastructure damage, conducting aerial surveys, and aiding in disaster response and recovery efforts.
Hazardous Material Incidents Mapping hazardous zones, monitoring air quality, and providing real-time data to emergency responders for effective mitigation strategies.

“In times of crisis, drones can provide invaluable support to emergency responders. Through expedited authorizations and streamlined processes, the FAA ensures that drones can be swiftly deployed to assist in life-saving operations. The collaboration between the FAA and first responders is essential for the safe and effective use of unmanned aircraft systems in emergency situations.” – FAA Spokesperson

Conclusion

In conclusion, obtaining Class D clearance for your unmanned aircraft is a vital step if you want to fly in controlled airspace. By following the step-by-step guide outlined in this article, you can ensure a safe and legal flight.

First, it is crucial to understand the difference between controlled and uncontrolled airspace. Familiarize yourself with the various airspace classes and FAA regulations to determine if you need Class D clearance for your drone operations.

Next, conduct thorough airspace research using Sectional Aeronautical Charts and utilize apps and tools like VFRMap, SkyVector, and Aloft for a more convenient and digital approach. These resources will help you identify the airspace classes in your desired flight area and determine if Class D clearance is required.

Finally, make use of the Low-Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) for instant airspace authorization or go through the manual application process using FAADroneZone if LAANC doesn’t cover your desired flight area. By following these steps and staying informed about FAA regulations, you can obtain the necessary Class D clearance for your unmanned aircraft. Safe and happy flying!

FAQ

What is the difference between controlled and uncontrolled airspace?

Controlled airspace requires authorization from Air Traffic Control (ATC) for drone operations, while uncontrolled airspace does not.

How can I determine if my desired flight location falls within controlled airspace?

You can conduct airspace research using Sectional Aeronautical Charts or utilize apps and online tools that provide digitized charts.

What is LAANC and how does it help with obtaining airspace authorization?

LAANC, or Low-Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability, is a partnership between the FAA and approved providers that allows drone pilots to request near-instantaneous airspace authorizations for flights in controlled airspace.

What should I do if LAANC does not cover my desired flight area?

In such situations, you can go through a separate manual application process using FAADroneZone to apply for Class D clearance and other airspace authorizations.

What are the steps to request Part 107 airspace authorization manually?

Create an account on the FAADroneZone website, access the Part 107 Waivers and Authorizations section, choose Airspace Authorization, fill in the necessary information, review and submit the application, and monitor its status on the Part 107 dashboard.

What should I do in emergency situations that require drone operations?

The FAA provides quick authorizations for emergency UAS operations. Refer to the FAA’s guidelines and resources for specific guidelines on emergency authorizations.