North Adams Airport Commission sets rules for drone flights

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NORTH ADAMS — The North Adams Airport Commission has revised its rules for flying drones within a five-mile radius of the Harriman-West Airport to comply with federal regulations and require a 24-hour notice before flight.

The rules adopted by the Airport Commission not only align with FAA's interim regulations — the federal agency is currently reviewing a more permanent set of rules — but they require that any drone operator also be aware of those regulations.

"We wanted them to first show that they were knowledgeable of and were going to follow what the current FAA regulations are, and they're very basic," Gilmore said.

The rules include not flying the drone higher than 400 feet within the five-mile radius of the airport, not flying an aircraft heavier than 55 pounds, following a local organization's set of standards, and receiving permission.

Under the commission's standards, a person planning to operate an unmanned aircraft to notify and receive permission from the airport manager 24 hours in advance of the flight.

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"Some people in the area are very familiar, they've already created a relationship with the airport and they're trying to follow the local rules," Gilman said. "They'll text me and say 'Hey I'm going up over Joe Wolfe Field in 15 minutes' — that makes it very difficult for us."

The 24-hour notice period would allow airport staff the time to determine whether or not it is necessary to issue a Notice to Airman, commonly referred to as a NOTAM, to inform pilots of the potential presence of a drone near the airport.

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Drone operators also must follow the set of standards issued by the Academy of Model Aeronautics, which is a model aviation organization with more than 150,000 members worldwide.

Those standards include not flying over public gatherings and people.

Airport Manager William Greenwald said he wants to see the rules enforced. The commission agreed that enforcement of the rules would be up to the police department and noncompliance could be reported to the FAA.

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The commission adopted the new rules with the understanding that the FAA could institute new regulations in the coming months.

Although he expressed concern about adding more work for the airport manager, Gilman noted that requests for drone flight permission have been generally few and far between since the commission first stipulated drone pilots request permission earlier this year.

"Up until this point, there's only really been two people saying 'Hey I'm going to be flying here, hey I'm going to be flying there,' " Gliman said. "The rest have been sort of doing their own thing."

Contact Adam Shanks at 413-496-6376.


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