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Hill outlines policy for operating small drones near base

  • Published
  • 75th Operations Support Squadron

Small drones are a popular holiday gift each year and it's important to understand regulations and policies that are in place to accommodate both manned and unmanned aircraft occupying the same airspace. 

Hill AFB officials have worked with the Federal Aviation Administration and small unmanned aircraft users in the community to create procedures that will enhance safety in the airspace around the base.

"“The use of small drones continues to grow with operators ranging from school-age hobbyist to civil engineers inspecting large scale projects," said Lt. Col. Joseph Michaels, 75th Operations Support Squadron commander. "Unfortunately, the exponential growth of small drone usage poses a real risk to aviation safety and the physical security of our bases and civil airports."

Hill AFB’s airspace is adjacent to Ogden Regional Airport and Salt Lake City International Airport’s arrival and departure corridors. Hill’s airspace is also a hub for helicopter medical evacuation flights for five area hospitals and U.S. Forest Service operations during fire season.

As it is with other airfields, Hill AFB uses the five-mile rule.

Small unmanned aircraft use within controlled airspace can be permitted within five miles of Hill AFB with prior Airfield Management coordination at 801-777-1861, and if airspace restrictions and operations allow it. However, small unmanned aircraft use is never allowed on or over Hill AFB.

Small unmanned aircraft users can find general FAA operating procedures and guidelines at The website lists requirements for recreational users, commercial users, and describes restrictions for operating around all airfields.

Some general rules:

• Small unmanned aircraft must give way to all manned aviation activities: airplanes, gliders, parachutists, hang gliders, helicopters, the Goodyear blimp, etc. If it flies or glides, it has the right of way.

• The operator must remain within visual line of sight of the small unmanned aircraft. Operators can’t control or remain clear of other aircraft when they can’t see their own small unmanned aircraft.

• Small unmanned aircraft may not operate over any persons not directly involved in the operation.

• Small unmanned aircraft flights must take place between sunrise and sunset and operate at or below 300 feet in Hill AFB’s airspace.

"We continue to message the importance of changing the mindset from simple hobbyist to responsible operators. Doing so fosters a strong civilian and military relationship, but more importantly ensures a safe flying environment," Michaels said.

One option small unmanned aircraft operators can use to determine if they are within five miles of an airfield is to download the B4UFly app. The free app developed by the FAA is available on both iPhone and Android platforms and can help users know whether there are any restrictions or requirements where they want to fly.

Commercial businesses planning to conduct small unmanned aircraft operations near Hill AFB require a “Certificate of Waiver or Authorization” under FAA requirements listed on the FAA website.

Small unmanned aircraft users who want to fly within Hill AFB’s airspace need to call Airfield Management at 801-777-1861 at least 30 minutes prior to flight and provide their name, phone number, location of operation, expected start time, intended duration, description of the small unmanned aircraft, and maximum operating altitude not to exceed 300 feet.

Once the operator has completed their flight, they need to contact airfield management to inform them the flight has ended.