Calling the Airport to Fly a Drone

Currently, FAA guidelines state that you cannot fly a drone within 5 miles of an airport UNLESS you contact the airport and control tower. I decided to give it a try by calling the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport.

—My Drones—
Mavic –
Inspire 1 –
—Camera Equipment—
Canon 80d –
Shure VP83F LensHopper –
GorillaPod Focus –
—Camera Bag—
ProTactic 450AW –
Razer Blade 14″ HD GTX 1060 –

Current FAA rules can be found here:

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Life On Tech

-Jared Serfozo

38 Replies to “Calling the Airport to Fly a Drone”

  1. Thru The Lens Media, LLC

    Is there a "Cool Factor" in calling a Control Tower to get authorization to fly a drone? Of course there is. BUT, there is SO MUCH MORE at stake that this "Cool Factor" just glosses right over.  This goes for commercial pilots (who are NOT going to do stupid stuff that will jeopardize their livelihood) and recreational pilots.

    For clarification purposes, the FAA has notified all Air Traffic Control towers regarding LAANC and to direct all drone authorization requests to the FAA's DroneZone website, for the online process. The intent by the FAA was to have a better handle of drone operations in controlled airspace, by everyone using a platform they could easily access and evaluate. Though calling a control tower is still (technically) a legal way to gain authorization, leaving that door slightly open by the FAA, has many completely ignoring LAANC. This will come back to bite drone flights in the future (my opinion) as more calls to towers increase vs using the DroneZone and/or LAANC portals. Let's see if I'm prophetic in the future.

    When calling an ATC tower, I highly don't recommend using the approach that the guy in this video did; very unprofessional, vague information (from an ATC controller perspective) that caused confusion. IF you have to call the tower for authorization, I HIGHLY suggest you do the following (to not further jeopardize overall drone flights in general..especially for the future):

    1. if you are Part 107, then identify yourself as such, with Certification # and that your drone is properly registered w/the FAA.
    2. REQUEST FOR APPROVED FLIGHT- don't do what this guy said by basically telling them he was going to fly. ASK FOR PERMISSION.
    3. have LAT/LONG coordinates of where you will be launching (don't give them an address or landmark); they deal in precise information and they don't have time to try and locate a landmark or address.
    2. tell them the flight area parameters from launch point (e.g. with 100 yds radius of LAT/LONG, etc)
    3. give them an exact maximum AGL (be precise)
    4. tell them the projected total flight time at that altitude
    5. tell them projected launch time and total flight overall time
    6. CALL THEM when your flight has ended.

    If you are flying recreationally, you STILL need authorization (just like us commercial drone pilots). I HIGHLY recommend using AIRMAP app. Endless videos how to use this. Choose the type of flight (Part 107 vs Fly For Fun) and it will tell you the requirements in order to fly in that controlled airspace.

    BTW, all recreational drones have to be registered; Pres Trump signed that into law in 2018.

    Bottom line, be completely prepared with precise information when talking to ATC controllers; this is not just limited to commercial drone pilots. Every pilot needs to use this approach. IF that happens, then it will preserve this loophole a bit longer. Abusing this loophole and being unprepared (from an ATC Controller perspective) will only tick them off (over time) and next thing you know, they will shut you down before you even get started.

    Be part of the solution; NOT THE PROBLEM….

  2. Jason Harwood

    As a former controller, I advice that you look into purchasing an aviation handheld two way. If you are going to seek permission to fly within Class B, C, D, or G Airspace (ie controlled airport airspace), you are generally required to maintain 2 way communication with the airport. They will probably be more likely to allow you to operate if you are in 2 way RADIO contact. Your drone has an N number, so you should be able to call in using that call sign.( assuming that ATC agrees to allow you to fly…. CALL THE TOWER FIRST). This is just my opinion, not the law nor legal advice. That being said, if I were wanting to fly a drone within the 5 mile range, I would have a 2 way handheld radio with me.

  3. Bill Crawford

    I was flying in Oklahoma City within 5 miles of Wiley Post airport and went into the airport to talk to the air traffic controller and got permission and a thank you from them for going to the trouble to ask.

  4. Matt Uska

    Could you use a VHF radio to contact tower for drones? Or if you are outside a controlled area just announce it on the VFR channel? I live in Alaska and basically everywhere is an airport.

  5. Huge Gene

    I've called London City airport few months ago informing that I'd be flying 200ft 1mile from ATZ, had no problem at all, they told me pretty much exact thing, thank you and have a safe flight.

  6. Jays22b

    In Australia we can't even fly in a populated area, so a park like that is a no fly zone let alone worrying about a airport been close. We wont be able to fly anywhere in a few years the way we are going.

  7. J Garcia

    The only thing I would be concerned about is if your flying was later questioned by the authorities how could you prove you had clearance from the airport tower? At least get the name of the airport tower person who gave you permission. Also, why doesnt the FAA come up with some sort of online drone flight plan filing to accomplish the same thing.

  8. Titus Nixon

    I have called the tower at Midway Airport in Chicago, it took a lot longer to get clearance from them, almost 30 min. hell by the time I got the Job done it was almost too late to finish the Job, but I got it in before nightfall

  9. Peetiegonzalez

    Thank you for taking the proper precautions and letting ATC know where you are. As someone else stated at that altitude they don't really have a problem, but you did your legal duty and confirmed the details. One small point struck me, as a pilot we don't notify ATC. We request permission from ATC for any and all operations where contacting them is necessary. Seems petty, but if they have a real reason they can and will refuse permission. Not a problem, they're doing their jobs to keep people safe, and will usually find you an alternative time slot or whatever if that's the case.

  10. Quadcopterguide

    Nice work! Glad you at least gave it a try. You can tell that even some people working at the airport, which if you ask me should be sort of knowledgeable about drones and the rules, have no clue. Glad you got the guy at the end as the final person 🙂

  11. Life of Accro

    I recently was in st Petersburg right next to their local airfield by the marina and got an ok as well as long as I kept it under 120ft.. Theyre not not bad people seem to be willing to work with ya as lomg as u call and try n do the right thing.

  12. Cereal Pirate

    This is just stupid. as a photographer if you notice the sky and its something special you have minutes to get in the air and frame your shot. 5 minutes of back and forth just to get in the air over 4 miles from the airport is enough wasted time to miss a shot. it takes 3-5 minutest to get setup and launch then tack on the 5 minuted of ddr you just played talking to faa customer support india. thats 10 minutes of wasted opportunity. This is why we hack our drones !!

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