Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Drone debate draws a crowd: Crater Lake-Klamath Regional Airport (KLMT)

Veteran pilots, radio-controlled aircraft enthusiasts, drone pilots, business representatives and curious residents packed the Crater Lake-Klamath Regional Airport administration building Monday evening for a lively presentation and discussion regarding drone use in Klamath County.

While several questions raised during the meeting remained unanswered, topics ranging from notices filed with an aviation authority, temporary flight restrictions, military operation areas, airspace authorization, qualifications for Part 107 and reporting illegal drone activity were all discussed in detail.

Coordinated by airport administrators to help clarify Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rules, regulations and common sense safety for Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), the event lasted over an hour with an audience of nearly 20 people.

Airport manager John Barsalou and air traffic manager Doug Cunningham led the meeting, joined by Herald and News reporter, and commercial UAS pilot, Kurt Liedtke.

Participants ranged from representatives of Klamath Community College and Oregon Tech interested in establishing drone-related educational classes, emergency medical transport provider AirLink, a flight instructor, pilots for recreational and professional purposes, prospective drone buyers and citizens seeking information about proper drone use.

Cunningham began the meeting with a breakdown of regulations and air traffic control’s role, as well as explaining the differences between recreational flying (FAA Small UAS rule Part 101) and commercial use (FAA Small UAS rule Part 107). Different rules and authorization steps apply to recreational vs. commercial use.

Cunningham is in charge of approving Part 101 flights within five miles of the airport, while Part 107 requires FAA authorization through a web portal. Approval via the FAA web portal can take up to 90 days for commercial drone use.

The web portal is a recent addition to authorization procedures. Previously all flights within controlled airspace were approved through local air traffic control, but in busier regions the volume of drone requests became overwhelming for air traffic controllers.

Previously, professional UAS pilots acquired Certificates of Waiver or Authorization (COA) from Cunningham to fly for business purposes within range of active airports. Three COAs remain active in Klamath County, however those are set to expire in September, after which time those operations must also seek authorization through the FAA web portal.

In an effort to stay ahead of drone sales, expected to top 7 million annually by 2020, the FAA has updated its regulations, causing confusion for pilots and authorities alike. Many of these changes were addressed during the meeting, as well as pilots’ concerns about increasing numbers of drones and the potential for collisions.

Of the veteran pilots in the audience, there was a consensus that UAS pilots should be required to undertake formal training to assure understanding of airspace and proficiency in safe and responsible drone operation.

There are many practical purposes for drone use, including photographic opportunities not possible at ground level. Aerial surveys of farm and real estate properties, search and rescue operations, commercials, event coverage, military use, fire observation, film production, police use to survey hostile situations and accident scenes and media coverage are all viable options today for drones.

Some organizations are experimenting with package and food delivery via drone, and internationally some have even been equipped with flame throwers to clear debris caught on power lines.

In an effort to help local UAS pilots, the Crater Lake-Klamath Regional Airport has added a drone sub-section to its website at www.flykfalls.com, providing maps, airport information and documentation.

A drone weighing more than 0.55 pounds is subject to the same FAA rules as any other aircraft, yet this information is often absent from drones sold in department stores.

Authorities ask residents to report possible illegal drone activity by calling 9-1-1. Any flight operating within five miles of an airport or heliport, which includes most of Klamath Falls, must have prior authorization. Part 101 recreational flights can request authorization to fly by contacting Cunningham at 541-880-2470.

Original article can be found here ► http://www.heraldandnews.com

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