Can Drones Fly in Class E Airspace

Can Drones Fly in Class E Airspace? Explained

Drones have become increasingly popular over the years, with many individuals using them for recreational and commercial purposes.

However, the question of whether drones can fly in Class E airspace has been a topic of discussion among drone enthusiasts and pilots.

Class E airspace is considered controlled airspace, but it differs slightly from other airspaces. In general, drones can be flown in Class E airspace without the need for authorization from Air Traffic Control (ATC).

However, there are exceptions to this rule, and it is essential to understand the regulations surrounding drone flight in Class E airspace.

To fly a drone in Class E airspace, it is crucial to know the airspace’s location and the rules and regulations governing drone flight in that area.

It is also essential to note that all FAA rules and regulations apply, and drone pilots must obtain permission from the FAA before flying in controlled airspace for commercial purposes. Understanding the rules and regulations surrounding drone flight in Class E airspace is crucial to ensure safe and legal drone operation.

drone flying over airport

Understanding Airspace Classifications

The National Airspace System (NAS) is divided into different types of airspace, each with its own set of rules and regulations. Airspace classifications are based on the level of control and restrictions placed on aircraft flying in that airspace.

There are six main airspace classifications in the United States: Class A, B, C, D, E, and G.

Controlled airspace refers to airspace where air traffic control (ATC) has the authority to regulate the movement of aircraft. Classes A, B, C, D, and E airspace are considered controlled airspace.

In contrast, uncontrolled airspace refers to airspace where ATC has no authority to regulate the movement of aircraft. Class G airspace is considered uncontrolled airspace.

Class A airspace is the most restrictive airspace and starts at 18,000 feet above sea level. It is primarily used by commercial airlines and requires instrument flight rules (IFR) clearance to enter. Class B airspace surrounds the busiest airports in the country and requires ATC clearance to enter.

Class C airspace surrounds airports with less traffic than Class B airspace but still requires ATC clearance to enter.

Class D airspace surrounds airports with a control tower and requires two-way communication with ATC to enter. Class E airspace is slightly different than most other airspaces. It is considered controlled airspace, but it is less restrictive than Class A, B, C, and D airspace.

Class E airspace extends from 1,200 feet above ground level (AGL) up to, but not including, Class A airspace.

Drones primarily operate in part G airspace, which is considered uncontrolled airspace.

However, it is important to note that all FAA rules and regulations still apply, and the airspace is not unregulated. When flying a drone, it is crucial to understand the different airspace classifications and the rules and regulations associated with each one.

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FAA and Airspace Regulations

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is responsible for regulating the national airspace system. The FAA has established rules and regulations for operating unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), commonly known as drones, in the national airspace.

The FAA has classified airspace into different categories based on the level of control required for safe operations. Class E airspace is considered controlled airspace, although it is slightly different than most other airspaces.

Drone operators should be familiar with the difference between controlled and uncontrolled airspace, and where they can legally fly. The FAA rules apply to the entire national airspace system, and there is no such thing as unregulated airspace.

The FAA has established Part 107 of the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs), which outlines the rules and regulations for operating a drone for commercial purposes.

Part 107 requires drone pilots to obtain a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating by passing the Part 107 exam.

Drone pilots must also be familiar with UAS facility maps, which show the airspace restrictions and requirements for airspace authorization. Authorization can be obtained through the FAA’s online portal, and waivers and clearances can be requested for specific operations.

There are certain areas, such as prohibited areas and temporary flight restrictions, where drone operations are strictly prohibited. Drone pilots must be aware of these restrictions and comply with all airspace regulations to ensure safe operations.

In summary, the FAA has established rules and regulations for operating drones in the national airspace system. Drone pilots must be familiar with the airspace classifications, Part 107 regulations, UAS facility maps, airspace restrictions, and authorization requirements to ensure safe and legal operations.

drone near air traffic controller

Drone Operations in Class E Airspace

Class E airspace is the controlled airspace not classified as Class A, B, C, or D airspace. It can either begin at 700 ft AGL, 1,200 ft AGL, or at the surface.

This makes up a significant volume of the airspace over the United States, but of the three types of Class E airspace, the only type that drone pilots need authorization to fly in is Class E surface area (E2) airspace that surrounds small airports.

According to Part 107.41, no person may operate a small UAS within the lateral boundaries of the surface area of Class E airspace designated for an airport unless that person has prior authorization from ATC. This means that drone operators must seek permission to fly in Class E airspace, and it is illegal to fly without this permission.

Drone pilots can obtain permission to fly in Class E airspace through the FAA’s automated authorization system, Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC).

LAANC provides drone pilots with near real-time airspace authorizations, which allow them to fly in controlled airspace.

When requesting permission to fly in Class E airspace, drone pilots need to provide information such as the location of the flight, the altitude of the flight, and the duration of the flight.

The altitude of the drone flight is particularly important as it determines whether the drone will be flying above ground level (AGL) or mean sea level (MSL).

It is important for drone pilots to understand the regulations surrounding drone flight in Class E airspace to avoid any legal issues. By obtaining permission to fly and adhering to the regulations, drone pilots can legally fly in Class E airspace and take advantage of the opportunities it provides.

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LAANC and Automated Authorization

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has implemented the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) system to automate the process of obtaining airspace authorizations for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) pilots.

LAANC is a collaboration between the FAA and UAS Service Suppliers (USS) that allows pilots to apply for airspace authorizations through automated applications.

LAANC automates the application and approval process for airspace authorizations, making it easier for pilots to operate their drones in controlled airspace.

The system uses UAS facility maps to provide real-time airspace information to pilots, allowing them to make informed decisions about where and when to fly their drones.

UAS pilots can request airspace authorizations through the LAANC system, which will provide automated approvals for flights in controlled airspace. The system provides real-time airspace information, allowing pilots to make informed decisions about where and when to fly their drones.

The LAANC system also includes automated authorization for flights in certain areas, such as near airports. This automated authorization process is designed to reduce the workload on air traffic controllers and allow UAS pilots to operate their drones safely and efficiently.

In summary, LAANC is an automated authorization system that allows UAS pilots to request and receive airspace authorizations in real-time.

The system uses UAS facility maps to provide real-time airspace information to pilots, allowing them to make informed decisions about where and when to fly their drones. The automated authorization process is designed to reduce the workload on air traffic controllers and allow UAS pilots to operate their drones safely and efficiently.

air traffic control map

Air Traffic Control and Drone Operations

Drone operators need to be aware of the airspace they are flying in and the rules that apply to that airspace. Class E airspace is considered controlled airspace, and drone operations in this airspace need to be authorized by air traffic control (ATC).

ATC is responsible for managing the flow of air traffic in the National Airspace System (NAS). They use a variety of tools and technologies to monitor and direct aircraft in the sky, including radar, radios, and computer systems.

When a drone operator wants to fly in Class E airspace, they need to request authorization from the relevant ATC facility. This can typically be done through an online portal, such as the FAA’s DroneZone, or by contacting the local control tower directly.

The ATC facility will review the drone operator’s request and determine whether it is safe for the drone to fly in the requested airspace. They may also provide instructions or restrictions on how the drone should operate in the airspace, such as altitude limits or flight paths.

It is important for drone operators to follow the instructions and restrictions provided by ATC to ensure the safety of other aircraft in the airspace. Failure to comply with ATC instructions can result in fines or other penalties.

In summary, drone operations in Class E airspace require authorization from air traffic control. Drone operators should be familiar with the procedures for requesting authorization and following ATC instructions to ensure safe and legal operations in controlled airspace.

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Understanding Airspace on Sectional Charts

Sectional charts are essential tools for drone pilots to understand the airspace they are flying in. These charts depict the different types of airspace in a given area, and the classifications of airspace are indicated by different colors and symbols.

Airspace classes E2, E3, and E4 are all considered controlled airspace, and they are indicated on sectional charts by a dashed magenta line. E2 airspace extends from the surface up to 1,200 feet above ground level (AGL). E3 airspace extends from 1,200 feet AGL up to 14,500 feet MSL, and E4 airspace extends from 14,500 feet MSL up to 18,000 feet MSL.

E2, E3, and E4 airspace are all considered controlled airspace, which means that drone pilots must obtain permission from air traffic control (ATC) before flying in these areas.

It is important to note that Class E airspace is not always depicted on sectional charts, so drone pilots should consult other resources, such as the FAA’s UAS Facility Maps, to determine if they are flying in controlled airspace.

In addition to E2, E3, and E4 airspace, there are also surface areas around airports that are considered controlled airspace. These surface areas are depicted on sectional charts by a solid magenta line, and drone pilots must obtain permission from ATC before flying in these areas as well.

Overall, it is important for drone pilots to understand the different types of airspace depicted on sectional charts and to obtain the necessary permissions before flying in controlled airspace.

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Operating Near Airports

When it comes to operating drones near airports, there are certain rules and regulations that need to be followed to ensure the safety of the airspace. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has put in place guidelines for drone operators to follow when flying near airports.

For flight near airports in controlled airspace, drone operators must receive an airspace authorization prior to operation. Airspace authorizations come with altitude limitations and may include other operational provisions.

Controlled airspace and other flying restrictions can be found on the B4UFLY app or AirMap.

Small airports are surrounded by Class E airspace, which does not prohibit drone flight.

However, Class E surface area (E2) airspace surrounds small airports and does require airspace authorization.

Drone operators must obtain authorization from the relevant Air Traffic Control (ATC) before flying in Class B, C, or D airspace.

Commercial drone operators are required to get permission from the FAA before flying in controlled airspace. In general, drone operators can only fly their drones in uncontrolled airspace below 400 feet above the ground (AGL).

It is important for drone operators to be aware of the airspace restrictions and obtain proper authorization before flying near airports. Failure to comply with these regulations can result in penalties and fines.

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Interactions with Manned Aircraft

Drones are becoming increasingly popular, and as a result, the number of drones in the sky is increasing. While drones are a great tool for capturing stunning aerial footage, it is important to remember that they share the airspace with manned aircraft.

Manned aircraft, including airliners, operate in Class E airspace, which is considered controlled airspace. Therefore, drone pilots need to be aware of the potential risks of flying their drones in Class E airspace.

Interactions between drones and manned aircraft can be dangerous. In fact, according to the FAA, there were over 2,000 reports of drone sightings by pilots in 2020 alone. These sightings can cause significant problems for pilots, as they can be distracting and make it difficult to fly the aircraft safely.

To avoid these types of interactions, drone pilots need to be aware of the rules and regulations surrounding the use of drones in Class E airspace. In particular, drone pilots need to be aware of the Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) that apply to manned aircraft in this airspace.

IFR is a set of rules that govern how pilots operate their aircraft in controlled airspace. These rules are designed to ensure that pilots can navigate safely through the airspace, even in poor weather conditions.

Drone pilots need to be aware of these rules and ensure that they do not interfere with the operation of manned aircraft. This means that drone pilots need to be aware of the altitudes at which manned aircraft are operating and ensure that they do not fly their drones in these areas.

In summary, interactions between drones and manned aircraft can be dangerous and should be avoided. Drone pilots need to be aware of the rules and regulations surrounding the use of drones in Class E airspace and ensure that they do not interfere with the operation of manned aircraft. By following these rules, drone pilots can help to ensure that the skies remain safe for everyone.

drone delivering package

Recreational Flyers and Airspace

Recreational flyers who operate drones are required to follow certain airspace regulations to ensure safety and avoid any potential conflicts with other aircraft. In the United States, there are six main airspace classifications: A, B, C, D, E, and G.

Recreational flyers are allowed to fly their drones in Class G airspace, which is the least restrictive and considered “uncontrolled.” However, they must still comply with all FAA rules and regulations.

If a recreational flyer wants to fly their drone in controlled airspace, such as Class B, C, D, or E airspace, they must obtain an airspace authorization from the FAA prior to flight through the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) system or the FAA’s Drone Zone.

The LAANC system enables companies approved by the FAA to provide airspace authorizations to drone pilots in LAANC-enabled areas. Recreational flyers can request an airspace authorization to operate in controlled airspace at night through LAANC.

It is important to note that Class E airspace is considered controlled airspace, although it is slightly different than most other airspaces. The FAA’s regulations state that recreational flyers can fly in Class E airspace if they have an airspace authorization from the FAA prior to flight through LAANC or the FAA’s Drone Zone. However, the authorization may not be required in some cases, depending on the altitude of the drone flight.

In summary, recreational flyers can fly their drones in Class G airspace without an airspace authorization, but if they want to fly in controlled airspace such as Class B, C, D, or E airspace, they must obtain an authorization from the FAA through the LAANC system or the FAA’s Drone Zone.

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