The other day I was operating a drone mission for one of my clients. The project itself wasn't very complicated. They're a restoration company and they were installing a new waterproofing membrane on one of the buildings downtown. This project highlighted some of the services they offer so we wanted to capture some nice drone footage to help promote their product offering. The flight location was in downtown Kansas City. As I pre-planned my flight operations, there was nothing overly complicated with this job. Sure, when flying downtown you need to pay close attention to hazards like people, buildings, and other fixed objects. And then you need to account for other variables like wind because it can get gusty between buildings.
I was also flying within controlled airspace for the Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport. So I went through the typical authorization steps from the FAA to fly this area.
Once my pre-flight planning was complete, I activated my liability insurance and received temporary airspace authorization from the FAA to fly in this location. I showed up on-site and sat my drone down in a spot where I could take-off safely and start capturing footage. And that's when something unexpected happened.
I activated the take-off command on my control panel, and surprisingly the drone didn't take-off. It just sat there, motionless. I checked my control panel and saw a warning message on the screen. The warning said that I didn't have authorization to fly in this location.
But what the heck? I had authorization from the FAA! Well it turns out that the FAA has instituted additional procedures for obtaining authorization to fly in restricted airspace. In this case, I was inside restricted airspace for the Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport. Even though I received one set of approvals from the FAA, I had to submit for a second level of approval. It had been a couple months since I flew in this airspace so this warning was new to me.
The FAA grounded my drone. Shocked and confused I researched this new policy and returned the next day with my additional level of authorization. The drone took-off and the rest is history. Here's my point...
If you're using a drone for your business, you need to stay current on the policy's and procedure's required by the FAA. That means using an FAA certified drone pilot and obtaining airspace authorization to fly. Drones are very popular and the FAA is trying to catch up and control the airspace above our heads. As a result, steps for obtaining flight authorization is evolving as well. They're getting more strict, but with thoughtful planning you'll save yourself the frustration of showing up on-site and failing to get your drone in the air....like I did. Oh yeah....as for that job that I filmed...since I couldn't fly on my first attempt I just walked around holding the drone. It's got a great camera and mechanical gimbal that made for some nice smooth footage and slow-motion shots. So in the end, everything worked out great.