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Cleared for takeoff: Area designated for personal sUAS use

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --

Whether you call them drones, quadcopters or the official government term – small unmanned aircraft system – there’s now a place on Edwards for hobbyists to fly their personal sUASs.

The Edwards AFB Personal Small UAS Area is located across the street from Desert Junior-Senior High School’s football field.  

The area dimensions are identified with metal posts and signs stating “UAS Boundary.” In addition, the User’s Safety Code is posted at the site.

“The area was chosen because it was close to base housing for resident convenience,” said Trish Fisher, 412th Operations Support Squadron, Current Operations deputy chief. “One of the benefits of the standardized/designated area is that it eliminates the need for each small UAS operator from getting individual permission from the control tower, allowing continuous access to the area during daylight hours.”

Fisher added the area also complies with an FAA notice and FAA advisory regarding the use of model aircraft and sUASs.

This area is the only authorized area where people can fly a sUAS on Edwards apart from the Muroc Model Masters model airplane flying club.  

The 412th Test Wing’s sUAS Safety Code is designed to provide for a safe flying environment.

Flyers must adhere to the following:

  • Operate sUAS only within the approved area

  • Operate only between sunrise and sunset

  • Operate no higher than 400 feet above ground level

  • Not exceed a sUAS takeoff weight of 20 pounds

  • Maintain positive control of the sUAS during entire flight

  • Maintain visual line of sight at all times

  • Yield right of way to all manned aircraft as applicable

  • See and avoid all other aircraft

  • Use a ground spotter when appropriate (This can be a sUAS operator)

  • Ensure sUAS is registered and clearly marked with an FAA sUAS certificate number.

  • Not operate a sUAS with metal-blade rotors

  • Not operate a sUAS that isn’t battery powered

  • Not operate a sUAS with pyrotechnic devices — any device which propels a projectile or drops any object

  • Not record images/video from the sUAS

  • Avoid overflying unprotected people, vehicles or occupied structures by at least 25 feet to avoid endangerment of life and property

  • Under no circumstances may an operator or other person touch a sUAS in flight, except to divert it from striking an individual

  • Ensure launch area is clear of all individuals except other flyers

  • Not operate in adverse weather conditions such as in high winds or reduced visibility

  • Not operate under the influence of alcohol or drugs

  • Immediately cease operations when instructed

“I think it is a hobby that can be a lot of fun, but as with all things it can be misused and bring harm to others, so I think the rules put in place provide a good balance between safety and freedom,” said Thomas Llewellyn, 418th Flight Test Squadron, Airlift Scheduling, who is a sUAS enthusiast that looks forward to trying out the new flying area. He owns two quadcopters and a hexacopter.  

“I think opening up an area to fly on base legitimizes the hobby. There’s a lot of negative press regarding (sUASs), but there are a lot of people who just enjoy flying them and obey the regulations. The new area embraces the hobby and makes it legal for people who want to check out flying a sUAS.”

Llewellyn recommends that novices speak with those who have been flying sUASs for a while to get tips on the right system to buy and flying operations.  

Two view the 412th Test Wing’s memo on the new Small UAS area and map coordinates, go to www.edwards.af.mil/Portals/50/documents/Personal SUAS Use Area.pdf?ver=2017-07-25-114054-370.