Most National Qualified Entity (NQE) and Recognised Assessment Entity (RAE) drone training organisations will recommend that, as part of your flight planning, you identify potential other airusers in the vicinity of your planned drone flight.
In most cases the radius of interest will be the potential fly-away distance your drone could cover given it's max speed and battery capacity.
For example, a drone with a 45 mph top speed and a battery capacity of 27 minutes which suddenly gets a mind of its own could, theoretically, travel over 20 miles (or further with a following wind).
As a professional and responsible drone operator, you'd want to be sure that, should that unthinkable scenario happen, you would be able to immediately contact any and all other airspace users that might potentially encounter your drone within that radius and direction of travel.
By the way, there is a much simpler way to do this - skip the hard work.
As part of your flight planning, and depending on their proximity to your flight area, you may well have already spoken with some of the other potential airusers. However, there's likely to be a number of additional airusers outside of your planned flight area but within your drone's potential fly-away radius.
So who do you need to consider? Here's a list of the most obvious airusers:
- Commercial airports
- Commercial heliports
- Police helicopters
- Air ambulances
- Military airfields
- Private airfields
- Glider clubs
- Microlight clubs
- Hotels with helipads
- Racecourses with helipads
- Motorsport venues with helipads
There's lots right! And I'm sure you can think of even more if you put your mind to it.
Great, so that's the list of airusers identified. Now, how to find them and their contact information.
Where to find airuser contact information
The good news is that there are a number of useful resources available that can help you with this task. It's still going to take you a fair amount of effort and good while to complete though.
But, the first thing you'll need to do is understand the area you need to search. You can use Google Earth or tools like Map Developers draw a circle tool to get started with that.
Once you know your area if interest, you can use the following sources to find the contact details. There's no shortcut to this, you just have to plough through the list.
- Commercial airports - NATS eAIP. Click on the "eAIP AIRAC MM/YYYY" link, expand "AD2 Aerodromes" to drill down to the site(s) you're interested in. Click on each of them and you'll find the contact information in the data sheet.
- Commercial heliports - NATS eAIP. Click on the "eAIP AIRAC MM/YYYY" link, expand "AD3 Heliports" to drill down to the site(s) you're interested in. Click on each of them and you'll find the contact information in the data sheet.
- Police helicopters - centrally controlled by the National Police Air Service and you check their locations here.
- Air ambulances - there's a list of Air Ambulance services on Wikipedia and you'll need to drill down to the service of interest to find the contact information.
- Military airfields - use the Military AIP to find contact information. Select "AD" in the top menu bar and drill down to the base of interest.
- Private airfields - this is more tricky, there are many private airfields but, as far as I can tell, no single database. You'll need to review the list of all UK airports in Wikipedia and idenify the private airfields listed there.
- Glider clubs - find contact information for gliding clubs on the British Gliding Association website.
- Microlight clubs - find contact information for microlight clubs on the British Microlight Aircraft Association website.
- Hotels with helipads - again, this is tricky in that there's no central database of hotels with heliports. You can though try Britains Finest hotels booking site which allows you to filter to hotels with helipads and private airfields.
- Racecourses with helipads - it's probably safe to assume that most racecourses in the UK have helipads so head over to the British Horseracing website to get a list of locations and their contact information.
- Motorsport venues with helipads - again, it's probably safe to assume that most of the larger motorsport venues in the UK have helipads so head over to the Wikipedia UK Motorsport Venues page to get a list of locations and drill down to their contact information.
That's the most obvious list of other airusers, there may be more. Ordanance Survey maps, Google Maps and Google search are your obvious friends to help check you've not missed anything.
There must be a better way - surely?
Well, as it happens, there is! I know I said there was "no shortcut to this" but, to be honest, that was a bit of a white lie.
You probably noticed the map at the top of the page? That's a screenshot taken directly from the "Manage Job" section in Dronedesk.
The map clearly shows your fly-away radius and all the possible airusers in that area. And in the app you also get a table below the map which lists those airusers along with their conatct information and their distance and bearing from your flight location.
All this is done automatically and with no effort required from you whatsoever.
It's just one of the many amazing features that makes Dronedesk the number one choice for commercial drone operators in the UK to manage their business and plan their flights.