Welcome Mavic Pilot!
Jump in and join our free DJI Mavic community today!
Sign up

How to Identify Yourself in Radio Communication with Control Tower

DownandLocked

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 21, 2017
Messages
60
Reaction score
20
Age
75
Has anyone in this forum flown an approved mission in tower controlled airspace using a radio to communicate with the control tower during the mission? If so, how did you identify yourself during that mission?

As a licensed full scale pilot, we identify ourselves with our airplane model type and our registration number. For example, "Binghamton ground, Centurion N5083W ready to taxi".

I want to apply to unlock the nofly zone around my local airport indicating that the mission would be coordinated with Binghamton Air Traffic Control maintaining two way radio communication with the tower using a handheld aviation radio. I'm not clear on how to identify myself on the radio. Do I say "Mavic Drone on the West ramp ready to fly orbiting mission over (aircraft parked at the ramp) at 100' above ground"?.

I am about to meet with the ATC manager at the airport to discuss this but was curious how others might have handled this because this I am sure will be new to the ATC personnel at Binghamton.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Mblumster

BigAl07

Administrator
Staff Member
Premium Pilot
Joined
Jun 1, 2017
Messages
2,670
Reaction score
3,663
Age
49
Location
Western NC, USA
All of our on/near airport flights have been conducted without 2-way radio comms. Our approval stipulated to make ATC telephone contact before the flights, after the flights, and create NOTAMS for each series of flights but do not allow for 2-way comms with the tower.

I'm also a pilot and I carry a 2-way with when we are near airport but for monitoring only. My concern is creating the proverbial rabbit hole for other UAS operators who do not know the proper way to safely and efficiently use 2-way comms.

I'll be interested to hear what your local facility will allow.
 

TheoMatthias

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 23, 2017
Messages
174
Reaction score
105
IMHO, I would not communicate with the tower via radio unless my Part 107 waiver specified that I should do so. In that case, the waiver will specify the call sign they want you to use.

After spending some time in a Delta control tower, I can attest to the workload level demands during busy times in the airspace. Add to that the handling of multiple radio transmissions from Part 101 and 107 pilots in the area, and one can see the workload will be even more increased. In fact, the tower may ignore your transmission altogether unless you are flying a Part 107 mission under a COA that requires radio communications.

Best to use phone contact.

However, I think it is VERY important to monitor air traffic while flying your mission, especially if you are anywhere near an airport.
 

Meanee

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 18, 2017
Messages
47
Reaction score
22
Age
39
There is this odd rule that in order for you to operate VHF radio, you need to have FCC license. The requirement is waived if radio is installed in the aircraft. So unless you feel like buying a cheap Cessna just for the radio, your use of handheld radio may be in a violation of FCC regulations. Even if you use your Part 107, you still cannot use the radio per FCC rules. I am not sure if FAA allows some sort of exempt, but it's not specified by FCC.

More info here: Aircraft Stations

It's not the most terrible idea to monitor traffic. However, if you are staying under 400 feet, you really shouldn't need to monitor anything. 14 CFR 91.119(c) states that no aircraft can be less than 500 feet from any person, vessel or structure. Helicopters are exempt, but only if they are flying designated helicopter routes. You can check skyvector.com for those.
 

TheoMatthias

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 23, 2017
Messages
174
Reaction score
105
{snip}...However, if you are staying under 400 feet, you really shouldn't need to monitor anything.14 CFR 91.119(c) states that no aircraft can be less than 500 feet from any person, vessel or structure. Helicopters are exempt, but only if they are flying designated helicopter routes. You can check skyvector.com for those.
My experience (flying GA and sUAS) tells me that helicopters can be troublesome traffic. Especially problematic are military helicopters.

One of the last times I flew my MP, a commercial helicopter was within 1-mile of my CS and was most definitely below 500-feet. I was in Echo airspace and no designated helicopter routes exist in the area. Also, some time ago, I was on a climb-out in a Piper Warrior and had a Blackhawk crossing my flight path from the port side. The Blackhawk was at the airport's traffic pattern altitude and presented enough risk that I took evasive action and tried to contact it on the CTAF multiple times; no response. Later, upon return to the airport and in the traffic pattern, I found another Blackhawk (the same?) hovering at low altitude just off my base leg.

So, in my experience, I would use caution with all traffic...especially helicopter traffic. And, while the regulations SHOULD provide separation between sUAS traffic at 400-ft and below from other traffic at 500-ft and above, it is not a perfect world; not all pilots strictly observe the regulations. I would be especially cautious of military helicopters as there is no guarantee that they are monitoring/communicating on any other than a military frequency. That means you cannot monitor them and, thus, they may be "invisible" if you are monitoring CT or CTAF communications and don't have them in your VLOS.
 

2nckayakers

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 13, 2017
Messages
539
Reaction score
626
Age
53
Location
North Carolina
[QUOTE="However, if you are staying under 400 feet, you really shouldn't need to monitor anything. 14 CFR 91.119(c) states that no aircraft can be less than 500 feet from any person, vessel or structure. Helicopters are exempt, but only if they are flying designated helicopter routes. You can check skyvector.com for those.[/QUOTE]

You obviously do not live/fly near any small airports. I live and fly (with permission) within 4 miles of my regional airport and I am less than 15 miles from 2 military air bases that both use the small regional field as an outlying landing field for practice. I am in G airspace but my house is directly in the path of the runway so depending on the wind direction, I get a lot of traffic directly over the house. It is not uncommon for helicopters to be less than 500 feet AGL and I have even seen some as low as 200 feet. There are no designated helicopter routes in my area. Small fixed wing aircraft are just the same way, they don't always follow the rules. That is one of the reasons that I monitor traffic in my area, pay attention to NOTAMS from my airport, and try to keep a good dialog going with the Airport Manager. Anything you can do to enhance your situational awareness is a good thing.
 

2nckayakers

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 13, 2017
Messages
539
Reaction score
626
Age
53
Location
North Carolina
it is not a perfect world; not all pilots strictly observe the regulations..
Thank you TM for pointing this out. I have read way too many posts from some pilots on here who try to act holier than thou and act like they don't do anything wrong because they are real pilots. I never got my pilots license and that was a personal decision, but I flew for a long time and I have a lot of friends that do have their pilots license, and I see what goes on daily at my regional airport so I know for a FACT that having a license to fly a plane does not mean you don't break rules.
 
  • Like
Reactions: stpatrick

Meanee

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 18, 2017
Messages
47
Reaction score
22
Age
39
Well, yeah, in a perfect world you wouldn't need to worry about traffic. And there are pilots who DGAF and fly low. So it's kind of no-win scenario. To protect yourself against people who don't follow regulation (low flying pilots and helicopters), you need to not follow regulation and keep a VHF radio without FCC license. Or just get FCC license.

I doubt your typical weekend fun flyer will bother with a radio or FCC license.

I chatted with a RC pilot at nearby RC field. We have police helicopter base not far. And he was complaining that police choppers often violate 500 foot rule and fly lower.
 

sar104

Dic mihi solum facta, domina.
Premium Pilot
Joined
May 27, 2017
Messages
8,637
Reaction score
9,576
Location
Los Alamos, NM
There is this odd rule that in order for you to operate VHF radio, you need to have FCC license. The requirement is waived if radio is installed in the aircraft. So unless you feel like buying a cheap Cessna just for the radio, your use of handheld radio may be in a violation of FCC regulations. Even if you use your Part 107, you still cannot use the radio per FCC rules. I am not sure if FAA allows some sort of exempt, but it's not specified by FCC.

More info here: Aircraft Stations

It's not the most terrible idea to monitor traffic. However, if you are staying under 400 feet, you really shouldn't need to monitor anything. 14 CFR 91.119(c) states that no aircraft can be less than 500 feet from any person, vessel or structure. Helicopters are exempt, but only if they are flying designated helicopter routes. You can check skyvector.com for those.
Your partial quote of 14 CFR 91.119(c) is potentially misleading:

(c) Over other than congested areas. An altitude of 500 feet above the surface, except over open water or sparsely populated areas. In those cases, the aircraft may not be operated closer than 500 feet to any person, vessel, vehicle, or structure.
"Sparsely populated areas" describes the environment of many UAV flights.
 
  • Like
Reactions: BigAl07

2nckayakers

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 13, 2017
Messages
539
Reaction score
626
Age
53
Location
North Carolina
you need to not follow regulation and keep a VHF radio without FCC license. Or just get FCC license. .
No need for a two way radio or a license, you can just buy a relatively inexpensive scanner and still be able to monitor. You really don't have any need to communicate directly with anyone, and as others have said you would probably be ignored if you tried anyway.
 

Meanee

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 18, 2017
Messages
47
Reaction score
22
Age
39
Your partial quote of 14 CFR 91.119(c) is potentially misleading:

(c) Over other than congested areas. An altitude of 500 feet above the surface, except over open water or sparsely populated areas. In those cases, the aircraft may not be operated closer than 500 feet to any person, vessel, vehicle, or structure.
"Sparsely populated areas" describes the environment of many UAV flights.
Well, not quite. If you are in a sparsely populated area, aircraft still must be 500 feet away from you. And since most airplanes can't spot you on a ground, good practice to be in compliance with it, is to be 500 feet off the ground or more. Because if you are taking a dump in a bushes, and some idiot buzzes you at 200 feet, he's in violation, even if he didn't see you.

So by flying 500 feet or more off the ground, pilots guarantee that they won't run into a drone, provided a drone pilot won't exceed 400 foot ceiling.
 

Meanee

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 18, 2017
Messages
47
Reaction score
22
Age
39
No need for a two way radio or a license, you can just buy a relatively inexpensive scanner and still be able to monitor. You really don't have any need to communicate directly with anyone, and as others have said you would probably be ignored if you tried anyway.
Pretty much this.

Also, if you do not have tower in your line of sight, chances are that only aircraft above you will hear you, not the tower. You can ask an aircraft to relay you to a tower, but they have their own stuff to do and most likely won't do what you ask.
 

sar104

Dic mihi solum facta, domina.
Premium Pilot
Joined
May 27, 2017
Messages
8,637
Reaction score
9,576
Location
Los Alamos, NM
Well, not quite. If you are in a sparsely populated area, aircraft still must be 500 feet away from you. And since most airplanes can't spot you on a ground, good practice to be in compliance with it, is to be 500 feet off the ground or more. Because if you are taking a dump in a bushes, and some idiot buzzes you at 200 feet, he's in violation, even if he didn't see you.

So by flying 500 feet or more off the ground, pilots guarantee that they won't run into a drone, provided a drone pilot won't exceed 400 foot ceiling.
At 500 ft AGL a pilot should not encounter a drone flown under Part 107, but there is no such guarantee for Part 101 flights since there is no specific altitude limit for those.

But that's not what I was questioning, which was the converse assertion that if flying a drone at under 400 ft then there is no need to monitor for aircraft. 14 CFR 91.119(c) permits flights under 500 ft AGL in some situations, and does not prohibit flying an aircraft within 500 ft of a UAV, only within 500 ft of a UAV operator.
 

Meanee

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 18, 2017
Messages
47
Reaction score
22
Age
39
There's always a risk that there's someone or something below you, even if you can't see it. So as a pilot, why risk it? Also, higher you are, safer you will be, in case of engine failure.
 

sar104

Dic mihi solum facta, domina.
Premium Pilot
Joined
May 27, 2017
Messages
8,637
Reaction score
9,576
Location
Los Alamos, NM
There's always a risk that there's someone or something below you, even if you can't see it. So as a pilot, why risk it? Also, higher you are, safer you will be, in case of engine failure.
No argument there - but it wasn't the subject of the post that I questioned.
 

ascension

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 1, 2016
Messages
260
Reaction score
208
Don't identify yourself, and don't jam the freq.
If you work out an agreement with an ATC facility to operate in their airspace, ask them what they want, and do it.
The last thing needed is for drone operators to transmit.
And please, never use the word "mission."
 

Phlier

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 27, 2017
Messages
52
Reaction score
59
Age
52
IMHO, I would not communicate with the tower via radio unless my Part 107 waiver specified that I should do so. In that case, the waiver will specify the call sign they want you to use.

After spending some time in a Delta control tower, I can attest to the workload level demands during busy times in the airspace. Add to that the handling of multiple radio transmissions from Part 101 and 107 pilots in the area, and one can see the workload will be even more increased. In fact, the tower may ignore your transmission altogether unless you are flying a Part 107 mission under a COA that requires radio communications.

Best to use phone contact.

However, I think it is VERY important to monitor air traffic while flying your mission, especially if you are anywhere near an airport.
Completely agree.

Apply the Theory of The Perfect Husband: "Listen, but *never* speak."

Chances are extremely thin that the tower will ever want you to say a word on the radio. Unless you are an appropriately licensed pilot and operating a registered aircraft (one that has an "N" number), it is not legal for you to transmit on any aeronautical frequency. Even having a Restricted Radio Telephone Permit won't get you past that requirement.

Aviation frequencies are for appropriately licensed pilots flying registered aircraft *ONLY*, and there are very, very, few exceptions.
 

BigAl07

Administrator
Staff Member
Premium Pilot
Joined
Jun 1, 2017
Messages
2,670
Reaction score
3,663
Age
49
Location
Western NC, USA
Apply the Theory of The Perfect Husband: "Listen, but *never* speak."

Chances are extremely thin that the tower will ever want you to say a word on the radio. Unless you are an appropriately licensed pilot and operating a registered aircraft (one that has an "N" number), it is not legal for you to transmit on any aeronautical frequency. Even having a Restricted Radio Telephone Permit won't get you past that requirement.

Aviation frequencies are for appropriately licensed pilots flying registered aircraft *ONLY*, and there are very, very, few exceptions.

We have N# on our UAS and they still didn't want us on the 2-way. Call immediately prior to flying "session" and as soon as we are done with our flying "Session".
 

Phlier

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 27, 2017
Messages
52
Reaction score
59
Age
52
We have N# on our UAS and they still didn't want us on the 2-way. Call immediately prior to flying "session" and as soon as we are done with our flying "Session".
Pilot license training includes radio phraseology to be used with air traffic control and appropriate radio usage. Maybe someday the FAA will include that training with some form of UAV license. Until then, ATC is going to want drone operators to listen only.
 
  • Like
Reactions: BigAl07