NOAA seeks to understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans and coasts. We operate on all areas of the Contiguous United States, Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the U.S. continental shelf and several international locations among others. Our operations utilize a variety of manned and unmanned platforms at sea and in the air. Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) open up new possibilities for data collection. NOAA’s UAS operate within the United States National airspace, oceanic international airspace, and in foreign airspace. NOAA coordinates closely with the FAA, foreign civil aviation authorities, and other authorities as appropriate. Privacy is of utmost importance to NOAA. NOAA data gathered by UAS is collected, used, retained, and disseminated consistent within Federal laws,regulations and NOAA policies. Data handling complies with the Privacy Act of 1974 (5 U.S.C. 552a) (the "Privacy Act"), which, among other things, restricts the collection and dissemination of individuals' information that is maintained in systems of records, including personally identifiable information (PII), and permits individuals to seek access to and amendment of records.
In order to protect privacy, NOAA has taken the following actions related to privacy:
- The majority of NOAA’s UAS operations are small UAS (<55 lbs), flown over the ocean.
- NOAA will obtain written permission from landowners when UAS operations has a need to launch and/or land on their property.
- NOAA generally does not permit flight over people who are not involved in the UAS operation.
- NOAA follows FAA and NOAA standard procedures for UAS operations (including special use permits, landowner approval letters, and developing risk assessments).
- NOAA’s UAS authorized operations areas of operation are listed below.
NOAA’s aviation policy, NOAA Administrative Order 216104A: Management and Utilization of Aircraft, which includes UAS, can be found at:
NOAA UAS Authorized Areas
NOAA is authorized to operate UAS in the following regions in the National Airspace System throughout the United States and its territories:
- Class G airspace from the surface up to 1,200 feet above ground level through agreement between NOAA and FAA and from the surface up to 400 feet above ground level when operating under FAA Part 107.
- Class E surface area, class D, class C, and class B airspace from the surface up to 400 feet above ground level when airspace authorization is received from FAA.
- Additional higher altitudes are flown in all classes or airspace to meet mission requirements when special approval through the FAA is obtained.
- Military warning areas and restricted areas when approval is received through the controlling agency.