Fort Knox policy prohibits flying drones on installation

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According to fortune.com, in the last year sales of drones have tripled. Despite their growing popularity, flying those unmanned aircrafts on Fort Knox are prohibited per
Fort Knox Policy Memo No. 27.

The policy states that Public Law 112-95 defines unmanned aircraft as an aircraft that is operated without the possibility of direct human intervention from within or on the aircraft. The policy also states that by order of the installation commander,
privately owned unmanned, remote controlled and model aircraft—drone or quad-copter—are not authorized to operate over any portion of Fort Knox military

Rickey Webb, the Fort Knox air traffic and airspace officer, said the policy is based off of the procedures on how to fly personal drones in the national airspace. Personal drones can’t be in within 5 miles of an airport with a control tower without direct coordination and communication with the tower.

Since Fort Knox has an airport drones can’t be flown on the installation.

He pointed out that drones can fly up to 400 feet and they are small enough to interfere with a manned aircraft. A UAS can be flown above 400 feet. When flying a drone and UAS the pilot must remain in visual line of sight with the drone and they must be flown for hobby use only.

The Federal Aviation Administration has certain laws and policies that must be followed for each unmanned aircraft system. Drones are considered a UAS and has its own set of guideline and rules that must be followed to provide a safe environment for manned aircraft.

Instead of violating the policy of flying a drone on the installation Webb suggests joining a remote control flying club because drones are protected through a restricted operating zone. He said the clubs are free and believes the only requirement is completing a safety class to become familiar with operations. The airspace around the club is usually Class G airspace.

“(Class) G airspace is uncontrolled and must have visual flight rules visibility (3 miles) at 200 feet and above,” Webb said. “You can operate a drone up to 400 feet, and you now have the potential for a manned airplane to hit a drone. What they do is they build a ROZ that allows drones to be flown in those areas.”

Webb added that operations in Class G airspace is allowed without air traffic control permission. He said most individuals don’t know the structure of the airspace around them, and have no idea if they are using Class A, B, C, D, E or G.

He pointed out that one of the good things about Class G is individuals don’t need ATC permission because it’s uncontrolled airspace.

Drones cannot fly in Class D airspace. A normal zone is a 5-mile radius and up to a certain altitude. Webb said Fort Knox’s airspace is a 3.5-mile radius and it goes up to 3,500 feet. All of Fort Knox is encompassed in Class D airspace.

Although the installation is in Class D airspace, some people have been spotted flying drones in Kilianski Sports Complex which is against federal regulation, a policy that is for public and aviation safety.

If an individual is caught flying a drone outside of the installation in Class A, B, C, D or E airspace without following the Drones/USA guidelines he or she can be fined under FAA regulations.

Webb pointed out that there are a few differences between flying a drone and UAS. Both are 55 pounds or less and must be flown for recreational purposes. But flying a UAS requires certification and a license.

When flying a UAS Webb said an individual must have a visual line of sight and be able to see it at all times, and the UAS must remain close enough for the remote control pilot in command to manipulate the flight controls. The operator cannot fly over any persons not directly participating in the operations and can be flown during daylight only. The operator must yield right of way and not interfere with manned aircraft. This is what makes it difficult to operate on Fort Knox.

“If you don’t know an aircraft is flying in your direction how are you going (yield to) that aircraft?” he asked. “Do you know the altitude of the manned aircraft, direction of flight, the speed? When you have a 13 year old on the ground flying a drone and a helicopter, that 13 year old is not worried about anything but flying the drone. It’s a huge safety factor.”

For the larger UAS that can fly above 400 feet, certification as a pilot in command is needed and the individual must demonstrate aeronautical knowledge by passing an initial knowledge test at an FAA approved test center. The individual is also required to have a pilot certification other than a student pilot that is a complete flight review within previous 24 months, and he or she must be vetted by TSA and be 16 years or older.

Webb added that an individual must also follow the FAA of Modernization Reform Act of 2012 guidelines: an unmanned aircraft must be capable of sustaining flight in the atmosphere, fly a UAS within the visual line of sight of the person operating it and fly the UAS for hobby or recreational uses only.

Individuals must follow the criteria for hobby or recreational use by operating the drone in accordance with community based safety guidelines. Drones have to be inspected, flight tested and operational safety program administered by the community based organization; does not interfere with manned aircraft; and must give way to all manned aircraft. If the drone is flown within 5 miles of an airport, the individual must have the airport’s permission and maintain communications with that controlling agency.

“We have to separate manned and unmanned aircraft in a positive manner, said Webb. “We can’t do that with recreational flight of UASs or drones. The personnel operating the drones don’t have the same awareness as an air traffic controller or certified UAS pilot because we are governed by regulations on how to fly. These policies protect the airspace, pilot and other personnel on the ground.” n