Science and Technology News

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Increase in drone availability prompts guidance for proper use

by Airman 1st Class Javier Alvarez
JBER Public Affairs

1/12/2016 - Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska -- The Federal Aviation Administration expects more than 700,000 drones - or unmanned aircraft systems - in American skies following the 2015 holiday season. To ensure safety on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, the 3rd Wing Safety Office, in coordination with Pacific Air Forces, offers guidance for drone usage on base.

"With the increase in the use of drones and with the increase in availability of model aircraft, the potential for a mishap involving an aircraft and model aircraft is going to increase," said Air Force Lt. Col. Dave Skalicky, 3rd Wing chief of safety. "That's why we're interested, and that is why the command has put out guidance for us to follow."

The UAS flying locations and procedures will change in the coming weeks to reflect the guidance given by PACAF, said Skalicky.

While operating their UAS on military installations, hobbyists can expect stringent requirements.

"Use of [UAS] is prohibited during [Force Protection Condition] Bravo or higher," said Skalicky. "Safety and security are the big tenets that we are trying to hit with this policy and with the procedures that we are developing locally."

According to the Command Post, JBER is currently in FPCON Bravo.

"We are in contact with the clubs on base, [and] 673d Safety and 3rd Wing Safety to get together and come up with good procedures so we can keep everyone safe," Skalicky said. "The primary goal of everything we're doing is for the safety and security of all people on the installation. That's our number one goal."

Things to know and keep in mind when flying on JBER and PACAF installations:
According to the FAA website, the FAA now requires registration for all UAS weighing more than 0.55 pounds. Those who have operated their UAS before Dec. 21, 2015, have until Feb. 19 to register it. Those who acquired an UAS after Dec. 21, 2015 must register it before operating it outdoors. Failure to register can result with penalties that include fines of up to $250,000 and/or imprisonment of up to three years.

Further guidance provided by PACAF and 3rd Wing Safety includes:
-Contact base operations prior to flying at 552-2107
-Only fly over approved grounds. Currently the Alaska Radio Control Society field is the only approved location.
-Must be registered with the FAA.
-Stay less than 300 feet above ground and within line of sight of the UAS.
-Be mindful of the weather.
-Know personal and UAS limitations.
-The use of cameras and other recording devices is not allowed, including first-person view from a built-in camera.
-Do not fly within five miles of a military installation or airport unless properly authorized.

Those interested in flying their UAS on the ARCS Field at JBER, just off Richardson Drive, must join the ARCS, said Edward Cunningham, a member of the ARCS.

"All club members must have insurance through the Academy of Modeling Aeronautics," Cunningham said. "That covers them with insurance in the event that personal or property damage is caused. All ARCS members must be registered with the FAA and have insurance through the Academy of Modeling Aeronautics, [which] offers free membership through age 19."

Active duty military personnel E-5 and below are allowed free membership in the ARCS. For enlisted military personnel E-6 and above, dues are $25 per year.

ARCS has five field locations where hobbyists can fly their UAS: ARCS Field in JBER, Storck Park, Teeland Middle School gymnasium and Lumen Christi High School gymnasiums in Anchorage, and Groeschel Field in Wasilla.

"To anyone that is interested in operating model aircraft on base, we encourage them to join the model aircraft club because they are going to know the proper procedures to operate their model aircraft safely on JBER," said Skalicky. "Check with your local safety office, [either] 3rd Wing Safety or 673d Wing Safety, to make sure you are in compliance."

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