First update of 2016 takes-off!

Happy New Year, everybody!

Today, the Altitude Angel team are announcing an update to our popular free, global Drone Safety Map. Following rapid adoption from it’s launch in December 2015 (a little under a month ago), our Safety Map is becoming a vital part of every operator’s toolkit.

This substantial update features tweaks to the user interface as well as additional data layers. Here’s the full rundown:

  1. Added Controlled Airspace, Airports & Aerodromes for the USA map
  2. Added National Parks to the USA map
  3. Shipped improvements to the map interface, improving usability and adding better support for mobile browsers and lower screen resolutions
  4. Standardised map colouring
  5. Performance improvements
  6. A few bug fixes

At-a-glance situational awareness

In keeping with our desire to make it as easy as possible for drone operators to perform a detailed area survey, we’ve now standardised the colours we use on the map:

  • RED areas indicate boundaries within which you are either prohibited from flying, or, may fly within if you seek the relevant permission. These are legal restrictions and you should not enter these zones unless acting with authority or permission from the controlling authority.
  • YELLOW areas indicate boundaries around ground hazards which usually aren’t legally-enforced no-fly-zones, but we would recommend extra caution (or even avoiding altogether) for safety and/or privacy reasons.
  • The ORANGE areas indicate airports and the control radius around them.
  • And, the BLUE regions indicate the control areas around heliports, seaplane ports and other small aerodromes.

Airspace Restrictions

We’ve now enabled the display of airspace data for the United States of America. As is always the case, Altitude Angel strives to bring clarity to the data that we provide and as such, many drone operators will note that the majority of aeronautical data available through national regulatory bodies is largely irrelevant to them when it describes airspace that is much higher than the altitude they’re permitted to fly at.

That’s why we’ve created separate Controlled Airspace and Upper Airspace layers – which greatly simplifies the display of aerial restrictions as they pertain to drone operators by only showing controlled airspace that extends to the ground, as shown in the screenshots below:

US National Parks

Drone flyers in the USA will no doubt be aware that flying over or within National Parks is prohibited. We clearly show these aerial restrictions on the map:

AIRPORTS & AERODROMES

As many conscientious drone operators will  be aware, operating within the vicinity of an airport or aerodrome isn’t a sensible thing to be doing and, in some territories, it is illegal. Aircraft entering, leaving or manoeuvring within the vicinity of one of these areas are usually under Air Traffic Control and in almost all cases, drone operations aren’t visible to the Air Traffic Operators (something we’re actively working to change).

To help our drone operators in the USA, we’ve now plotted the location of airports and aerodromes, together with specific guidance about when you are permitted to fly in their control areas.

FAA guidance (at the time of writing) states that flying within the control region of an airport is possible if the operator has first contacted (and obtained the permission of) the airport control tower before commencing any operations. To assist drone operators to identify the control regions around airports, we now draw orange cirlces at a radius of 5 statute miles and the relevant hazard detail will indicate that you should contact the tower. For heliports, we plot a 2 statute mile radius. For sea plane ports, we plot a 5 statute mile ‘warning’ radius, and for glider ports the radius is 2 statute miles.

We are currently reviewing the radii placed around different categories of aerodrome and are working with a number of aviation authorities and regulators globally to determine the most sensible boundaries to display.

Altitude Angel recommends that you refrain from flying in the vicinity of any airport or aerodrome (particularly if you are not a commercial drone operator), unless you are flying with specific authority and/or permission from the relevant controlling authority. UAS operators flying within these regions generally significantly increase the risk to manned aviation. Often overlooked is the risk of a ‘flyaway’ occurring.

Learning more about a hazardous area on the map

Clicking on any particular map item will bring up much greater detail about it, and in many cases will also advise drone operators of the specific risks of operating in the vicinity of the marked area (this includes areas in which the drones are likely to pose greater risk to pedestrians, such as in places members of the public congregate, or where infrastructure is likely to pose elevated risk), such as in the example below:

Power Warning

When seen in context on the map, the entire warning gives drone operators a very detailed analysis of the hazardous area:

It’s also very easy for operators to then swap to the Satellite area view, with the Altitude Angel data overlaid on top, which provides additional clarity and assurance:

IMPROVED USER INTERFACE and MOBILE SUPPORT

We’ve seen very rapid growth in the adoption of our Drone Safety Map by both the recreational and commercial drone community, and although the majority of ‘flight planning’ usually takes place at a desktop (according to our statistics), we’re seeing an upward curve in mobile use.

To facilitate use of our map by mobile users, we now have a work-in-progress mobile interface – just visit our safety map from any mobile browser to activate it.

We hope our community enjoys this update and we welcome and encourage feedback on how to improve it.

Discuss!

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