For a new drone enthusiast that wants to fly legally, it can be a bit daunting understanding the rules and regulations that currently govern drones. In an attempt to simplify things, Gregory McNeal, a professor of law and public policy at Pepperdine, and Ben Marcus, creator of the NoFlyZone registry, have collaborated together to create AirMap. AirMap, now available in beta, combines user supplied data with regulation changes to create a fairly accurate map of where you can legally fly drones.
What is AirMap?
AirMap is a free, comprehensive digital map that allows unmanned aircraft system (UAS) operators to visualize the airspace around them, including areas where they may not be permitted to fly. UAS operators can now sign up for the beta-version of the site, which is live in the U.S. and expanding internationally soon. Airspace rules are complex. AirMap removes barriers to compliance by providing the low altitude — nearly street level — airspace information that unmanned aircraft operators need.
Fly Your Drone in Legal Airspace with AirMap
The following excerpt is from an Avirobotic Innovation Technology blog post titled “Airmap is a sky atlas for drone users: An elegant solution to inelegant regulations.” Here they attempt to explain some of the confusion that the average drone pilot would face without the use of a tool like AirMap.
It’s easier to explain how AirMap works with an example of how the current system doesn’t. If a person wanted to legally fly a drone in New York City this weekend, where do they start? Watching December’s “Know Before You Fly” PSA to figure out if it’s okay, an eager and law-abiding pilot could figure out that they should fly below 400 feet, stay within the line-of-sight, and avoid stadiums. But since that PSA was released, the FAA changed the rules, making 500 feet the acceptable norm, and they’ve granted more legal exemptions for how and where commercial drone users can fly.
With frequent regulation changes, it can be difficult for an individual or even small organization to keep up. That’s why, even in beta, AirMap is a valuable tool for drone pilots everywhere.
While it’s still a work in progress, AirMap comes with several useful toggles: airports, with the option to add in private airports as well. There’s a toggle for controlled airspace, and one for caution, like the temporary flight restriction or the permanent one banning flights over the White House in Washington. And there’s an advisory option, where pilots can select private residences (built from the NoFlyZone opt-in database), schools, hospitals, helipads, and buildings they can avoid if they want to. Toggling through the other features, we can see that after the temporary restriction, and excluding national parks (where drones are prohibited), there’s a lot of other controlled airspace, as well as areas near airports, worth avoiding, but there are spots to fly a drone in New York. It just means flying them in Staten Island.