One of the most important FAA regulations is staying out of unauthorized air space, so when planning your flight, you need to consult a reputable source to determine where you can and cannot fly such as the UAS Facilities Map.
What is the UAS Facilities Map and how do you use it?
The UAS Facilities Map is an FAA-issued tool for drone pilots to explore and plan their flights for both commercial and recreational purposes.
Select a spot you want to fly your drone on the map and you can quickly determine if that area allows for authorized drone flight.
In this guide, we’ll walk you through the UAS Facilities Map in full, including where to find it online, how to make sense of it, and what it can tell you.
We’ll have photos as well to make sense of your results, so check it out!
Step 1 – Finding the UAS Facilities Map Online
The first thing we have to do is get to the Facilities Map. To access the map, go to faa.gov, and in the search bar, type in “UAS Facilities Map.”
That will bring up a list of options, but click on the first option, which will take you to the UAS Facilities Map page.
In the first paragraph is the link to “The Maps,” or you can use this link that will take you straight to the map.
Here’s what you’ll see when the page loads.
Step 2 – Accessing and Reading ARTCC Boundary Zone Descriptions
You’ll be greeted by a map with a lot going on, so let’s go over this one item at a time so that everyone can understand and get great results.
The map of the U.S. has several outlined divisions, as the image above makes clear. Each of these areas is referred to as ARTCC Boundary Zones and each is labeled with a three-letter code.
Click on the code, and you will get the description of that zone.
Step 3 – Determining Restricted Flight Areas
You can also see red and green spots all over the country on the map. Zoom in to these spots, and you will discover that these represent restricted flight areas.
Zoom in closer and the red or green areas become grids that have numbers within each square. The green grids are areas that are LAANC-authorized.
That is, you can go to any LAANC site to get permission to fly within these areas.
The red grids are not LAANC-connected. The numbers in the square show the maximum height AGL you can get authorization for.
Step 4 – Deciphering UAS Symbol Meanings
When you are on the UAS website, you will see a bunch of buttons and symbols.
Rather than having you go back and forth between this post and the webpage, we’ll list what each button is and provide an explanation of what each button does.
The first four buttons are relatively self-explanatory.
The Magnify Screen button zooms in to get closer to your area and the Reduce Screen zooms back out to get a broader view.
Note: As you zoom in or out, your screen cursor is the center of your zooming.
The Default Extent button takes you to the original size aspect, showing the full map, while pressing the My Location button zooms right into your present location, whether you are at home on your computer or in the field on a mobile device.
Find Address or Place is a search bar that you can use to type in the exact place you want to find out about. This can be an address or latitude and longitude settings.
The Basemap Gallery is a bit harder to understand. When you open that option, you will see 29 different map examples that, if selected, will change the whole map into that mode.
Each of the basemaps has a different aspect from the others. You have the original map on the screen, but to plan your flight you may want all the local streets shown. You might want to see elevations or topography as well.
It takes a bit of playing with to find what you may want but sometimes it yields great information. This is a suburb of Phoenix as it looks on the originally loaded map, minus all the layers.
This is the same portion of the map with the Community Map selected. You can see that, even though all the same features are there, in this view, the park and recreation sites are emphasized by color and contrast.
Let’s show one more example.
We can see how the street view changes the viewing aspect and allows you to focus on different things.
The Layer option presents you with a list of several selections. Each selection is an overlay for the map that focuses on what specifically you are looking for.
When you first load the map, most of these layers are selected, so it might be a good idea to go through and de-select all of them, then go back and check just the layers you want.
Here are a couple examples.
Again we start with the map as loaded and all the layers unchecked.
In this example, we selected the places where model flying clubs have recognized areas for the use of UAS as shown by the blue dots. This is the Recreational Flyer Fixed Sites.
Below is a map of all the UAS areas that have restrictions.
The green areas indicated that LAANC has been established and the red areas show places where LAANC has not been set in place.
The About button brings up a long bit of reading material that talks about how to use this site and all the disclaimers that the FAA wants to be sure that you know.
This is good to read, especially for your first time using the map.
The Bookmark button puts a tag on the map you are currently showing so that you can quickly return to a page that you have spent some time working on.
That’s good to use if you have done a lot of modification using the Draw button.
The Draw button is pretty much a standard drawing tool that you can use to outline areas, write labels, show arrows, and otherwise customize the map to express exactly what you are trying to accomplish.
For example, the screenshots that I have been using here were all done using the Draw button options.
The Legend button presents a list of all the options you have selected. Nothing is selected the list will be empty, but each layer you have checked will appear with the symbol that is used to mark that spot.
Then comes the Layer List. This is a repeat of the original Layer button that shows what has been selected, and the list can be used to add or subtract a check mark.
The Print button is a standard printing utility with options that are self-explanatory.
When you click the Select button, you’re given a list of the layers that are active on your map, and with the Select tool, you can draw a shape around any area that you want and the layers within that area will be taken out.
However, when you go to select another area, the first deleted area comes back.
The Measurement button has three selections possible.
If you choose the Area button, you can draw a shape on the map. When you complete the shape, the options screen will show you the square unit amount (square miles, feet, etc.)
In the second option, you draw a line and the measurement is made in the desired format (feet, yards, miles, etc).
The third selection puts a green marker on the map where you click and gives you the reading of the longitude and latitude of the marker.
The Near Me button requires you to log in to ArcGIS.
Add Data is another way to add layers to your map with widely varied information. Click on the button and a list will come up with many pictured options.
This is an area best played with on your own when you first get onto the Facilities Map and explore the multitude of settings.
With the Query button, your object is to hunt for a specific hazard.
You need to select FAA UAS Facility Map Data, FAA UAS Facility Map Data (Last Edit), National Security UAS Flight Restrictions (Base), or National Security UAS Flight Restrictions (Facility) as your “Task” selection.
Let’s say you click on National Security UAS Flight Restrictions (Base). A sub-menu will appear and ask you to select the Base you want information about. Be sure to click the green Apply button at the bottom of the list.
The map will take you directly to that base on the map and show you the limitations that are posted.
Down in the bottom left corner is a small gray information box. This is not an action button but rather an information box that displays the longitude of the point of your cursor, wherever you might point it.
As you move your cursor, this box constantly updates the exact position where the cursor is on the map. You can use this to record your exact position or the exact map reading where you wish to go.
It’s quite useful information to have, especially if your flight takes you into wilderness areas. This position can be given to others to find you.
The FAA UAS Facilities Map can be very helpful in flight planning and keeping you out of trouble, but study it first and use this article to maneuver through all the possibilities to get the best information for flight planning.
Be safe and have fun!