400 Feet Rule | Can I Fly Higher in Controlled Airspace If My Takeoff Point Is Higher?

you're listening to the ask of droney podcast you ask we answer your drone questions whether you're here to turn your passion into profit and you simply fly for fun we're a community of wares and teachers who aspire to achieve greatness we are everyone and welcome to another episode of ask drone you on this beautiful day my name is boom yes beautiful indeed welcome this is episode 1012 we're glad that you're spending a few minutes with us we have a question today that seemingly should be simple but it's not because there's just a lot of variations you know I don't know that it's accurate to say there's gray area but there's just some challenges in understanding the realities of what drone pilots can do relative to how high they can fly and where so anyways we're gonna talk a little bit about that and hopefully clear some things up definitely I think we already include clear some things up but also give you some strategies on how to have more access to flying in controlled airspace because there are definitely some little hacks like everything in life that allow you if you're using your brain to get more out of the situation love it yep so um on that note we are gonna go ahead and say very special thank you to our friends at fortress UAV whenever you need to fix your drone we recommend that you check out fortress UAV to have it diagnosed there honestly a great group they even sent me an extra inspired too while getting our inspire to fix use promo code drone you for 25 percent off a drone repair diagnostic fee that can be applied if you go to fortress UAV comm forward slash drone you also big special thank you to our sponsor go professional cases go to GPC cases and use discount code drone you 15 to get some of the best cases to protect your drones for the life of their drones also special thank you to rob for having the most beautiful bald head I've ever seen and if you want to join us for the membership in the community and you understand that it takes a village to build someone up then you understand why it's so powerful to be a drone you member just go to drone you education and become a member today to have access to 32 classes to help you transform from a novice pilot to an educated confident and knowledgeable pilot drone you education hey guys mark Hamilton from Phoenix Arizona I have a question about the 400-foot airspace authorization rule it's my understanding that if you get say an authorization to fly a hundred feet above ground level that if you're within 400 feet of a structure a hill or a building or whatever that hundred foot authorization also can be used 100 feet above that building if it's within a 400 foot radius however I heard an FAA authority the other day and an interview say that if you're in surface Class E that and you get 100 foot authorization that is a hundred foot firm off the ground not a hundred foot over any obstacles that may be in the vicinity notice that include Hills is that true for only Class E to the surface or is that true for all airspace authorizations other than flying in Class G I'm not really clear on this I thought I was but once I heard that from the FAA Authority it threw me off thanks for your time guys great information hey mark thank you you know just hearing you ask the question which is is a great question and a question that I think a lot of people have actually a lot of people probably should have it and don't even know that they should have it just like you you thought you understood until you heard that podcast or whatever it was that you were listening to the FAA person on but just hearing you ask the question just kind of expresses how confusing it can be kind of bouncing around in the question right when we first listen to this one of the things that Paul mentioned was he answered the question himself so I think maybe you knew more than you didn't or than you thought you did but anyways there's a lot to unpack there actually well there was a couple things that we had kind of talked about on our walk which is you know first and foremost is you know he talks about the whole structure thing it's extremely important to clarify something the FAA says that you can fly to 400 feet or to 400 feet above the tallest point of a building within a 400 foot radius of that building the key thing that they do not discuss that's very important but was later discussed in a webinar with the FAA was the fact that you cannot breach controlled airspace by essentially if so let's let's say that hypothetically speaking we're in Albuquerque and we are we want to fly the Hyatt Building which is the tallest building here in New Mexico and let's say that at the surface of that building we're in Class G but the top of that building is actually in class Charlie can we go to 400 feet above that building if it is actually breaching the shelf of class Charlie the answer is no the answer is 100% no so his particular question though was if I get access to fly in 100 feet of airspace that's 100 feet AGL so he did answer the question in his question mm-hmm it is above ground level okay so that does not mean that it is above structure level okay it means wherever you take off it's a hundred feet above that yeah and the nature of his question is such that he is specifically even though it wasn't called out specifically asking about controlled airspace yes so premise behind the question I know I just you know that I ever vying for the listeners I think we're both trying to clarify that we're clarifying are we clear okay crystal all right on that bombshell so you know his question is so if I have access in e2 to go up to a hundred feet then can I go to a hill and take off a hundred feet from there or am i limited to a hundred feet he could take off from a hill so like let's say that you know he's here and he wants to take off he can only go up to a hundred feet but if he takes off from here now and go up here so yeah and go over to here exactly 200 feet exactly okay because it's a hundred feet AGL now something very interesting l from where you take off correct a very important point something very interesting here wrap if I'm flying a so isotopes stadium is inside KB Q's airspace Class C charlie airspace now I have to go map this particular stadium here soon for another reason for a new client if I were to take off in the field which is about 30 feet below ground level and I had a 200 foot ceiling which is what the UAS FM allows for there I would not be able to clear some of the obstacles around the stadium okay but if I were to take off at the road and fly to 200 feet there I could map the whole stadium 25 feet clear of any obstacle and not have a problem okay what's your question well my question is ground level if you're on the field isn't that the ground so he bring up a good point the ground is relative okay the ground is either the ground as in the field or it could be the ground as in the road okay the road is sits 30 feet higher than the field right okay the drone is measuring AGL from where you took off right so if you take off below you're limiting yourself in what you can fly does that make sense it does okay so when you said 30 feet below you're just suggesting go pick up those extra 30 feet by taking off from the road instead of the field instead of the field yeah yes but let's take this a step further I misunderstood the point but go ahead let's take this a step further okay so let's say that I really need to fly a little bit higher than the 200-foot level because the lights are at 195 and I need to clear them by 30 feet to get it in my map okay what can I do oh there's a parking garage a block down the street I could take off from the top of the parking garage okay you can still see your drone when you're flying right so you still have line of sight you're close enough to be able to do that that's correct okay that's a good point though that's a very good point it's also extremely important to understand that a lot of these airports also have Aero scope so you could technically get yourself in trouble on accident and the towers utilizing Aero scope could be looking at what I would call quote-unquote bad data because let's say that you are not thinking about this you are not taking into account your pre-flight checklist and where you should take off and controlled airspace to have the maximum amount of area to fly right if I take off at the field right the field is 30 feet lower than the road so the road is really our ground level ok if I go to 200 feet from the let's say I go to 250 feet ok from the field ok I'm really at 220 feet in the AGL approximately to the area but because arrow scope is showing data from the drone and not relative to the area it would show that I'm breaking the airspace so let's say I fly to 220 feet but the field sits 30 feet below the road ok ok if I went to 220 feet I would actually be at a hundred and ninety feet but the arrow scope data would be saying this person is flying illegally even though technically it would be very easy to argue that well I'm still under 200 feet AGL if AGL is the road so nice dependent upon where you took off exactly so this is why it's also extremely critical to think about in your pre-flight checklist where you should be taking off especially when you're flying in controlled airspace because if you take off from the field and you go to 220 feet you know even if you were to take off from the road and you were to go to 200 feet the 200 foot would actually be above the 220 because you're taking off below mm the other area so supercritical ladies and gentlemen just think about where the hell are you gonna take off in that area cuz yes if there's a he'll take off from the hill because guess what you're gonna have more space to fly alright just again Bob brings up a very good that you should be again visual line of sight sure so and so to clarify outside of the purview of what his question was about in class G the rules obviously are completely different but as it relates to the 400 foot max in particular that's when the structure does become important in Class G airspace you can go 400 feet above yep okay it's under so you can go 400 feet above the structure if you're as you do not breach controlled airspace absolutely absolutely really important because a lot of people think that it's just there they think it's their their get-out-of-jail-free card to say oh well top of the building and over for hunt food it's like yeah but you still can't breach controlled airspace unless you have an authorization it's very clearly written out in 107 absolutely and you can't forget about the upside-down wedding cake that we're talking about that it it'll sneak up on you potentially right yeah controlled airspace if you're not careful totally totally do you think we did a good job of covering this issue I hope so I think the comments and the folks will let us know but I think that it's definitely cleared it up relative to his question so but if not let us know you need more clarity or if you have a disagreement about what we're saying here please we want to hear about it we do we do on that note it's gonna do it for us today thanks again for watching if you have a question go to ask a drone ucomm upload that question and if you're not a member of the drill new community I would ask you have you given up on being the best pilot that you can be because lifelong success means that you got to be open to lifelong learning and if you are then you are the perfect candidate to become a drone you member so check it out but that's gonna do it for us today my name is Paul my name's Rob this is drone EO education

Our caller for today, Mark from Arizona, has a great question about the 400 feet rule. Mark has the authorization to fly 100 feet AGL in Class E airspace. As you might know, the 400 feet AGL rule allows drone pilots to fly 400 feet above ground level. But, what if your takeoff point is higher, and you are flying in controlled airspace? Can you fly at higher altitudes in this case?

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01:21 – A Special Thanks to our gracious sponsors, Fortress UAV and Go Professional Cases
04:25 – As per the 400 feet rule, can you fly at higher altitudes above a tall structure if you are breaching controlled airspace?
06:50 – As per the 400 feet rule, is your flying altitude measured from the highest point?
08:53 – Is DJI Aeroscope prone to wrongly identifying rogue drones?

Please watch: “Drone News – Drone Delivery Business, DJI News, Osmo Mobile 3 Rumors, Industrial Drone Uses”


7 comments on “400 Feet Rule | Can I Fly Higher in Controlled Airspace If My Takeoff Point Is Higher?

  1. Moss Photography

    AGL is a hard AGL. The drone must follow the topography of the ground it's flying over. We are working on clearing this up. If you take off from the top of a 100' hill, you must follow the terrain as you go down the hill and maintain the strict 100'AGL limit in that gird.

  2. Lt. Col. Ronald Clark

    I am both a pilot and drone pilot. AGL means exactly what it says Above Ground Level. If you go up on a hill it is 400 feet above that point. If you go down in the valley it is 400 feet above that point not flat across from the hill 400 feet. If you do what he says by going high on a hill and flying out above a lower area you now have gone above 400"AGL. Don't play with the facts. Lt. Col. Clark

  3. Nathaniel Hall

    I disagree. I believe AGL is based on actual ground level and not ground level where you take off. Just as a jet that takes off in Denver would not report the same distance AGL when they fly over Death Valley.

  4. Mark Williams

    Good explanation except for the one example you gave where you said you could take off from a close by parking garage to map a stadium to exceed 200 feet AGL in your example.. if that parking garage is within controlled airspace, and you took off on the garage roof at say 100 feet above surrounding ground level, you could still breach controlled airspace if say you went above 200 feet from the garage roof because the top of structures do not count as ground level in controlled airspace. Its unlikely however, that you would get dinged by aeroscope because the drone’s barometer data would report your altitude as 200 feet above takeoff level.


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