Know before you fly: New drone policy on base

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A policy released March 12 restricts the use of small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS) from flying on or near Luke, with some recreational exceptions.

“On base, use of sUASs is permitted from sunrise to sunset on weekends and holidays, at or below 100 feet above ground level, and only within the boundaries of Fowler Park,” said Brig. Gen. Brook Leonard, 56th Fighter Wing commander. “Operators must contact the security forces law enforcement desk at 623-856-5971 prior to use.”

Additional restrictions may be imposed and approval to operate may be denied or revoked at any time. Approval will not be permitted during airfield operating hours.

“The goal is to stop unauthorized sUAS operations within the base boundary,” said Master Sgt. Sean Hooper, 56th Security Forces Squadron anti-terrorism officer. “No person may operate a sUAS in prohibited or restricted areas unless that person has permission from the 56th Operation Support Squadron.”

Operators on or near Luke should also familiarize themselves with the differences in flying sUAS for work, business or as a hobby.

“Local citizens wishing to fly a sUAS near Luke AFB must comply with Federal Aviation Administration guidance and should educate themselves on the rules for safe flight near an airport,” said Christopher Toale, 56th FW community initiatives team. “Hobbyists and commercial sUAS operators can download the FAA’s B4UFLY app. The app can plot your position on a map and graphically show you your relationship and distance to nearby airports.”

Due to safety concerns and policies anyone who purchases a sUAS must register their device with the FAA upon purchase.

“It is critical for base personnel and the surrounding community to understand the importance of reporting suspicious sUAS activity to the nearest law enforcement agency,” Hooper said. “Thunderbolts and surrounding personnel should also be aware of Arizona Revised Statute 13-3729. This ARS code gives basic rules for the community and installation personnel of the do’s and don’ts for sUAS operations. Bottom line, it’s the operator’s responsibility to understand and abide by the rules.”