Flying a Drone (sUAS) at 30A in Florida

My family just went on a trip to the 30A area of Florida. This area is a combination of small towns in South Walton County, FL, between Destin and Panama City. I wanted to take my DJI Mavic Pro on the trip to take a few photos, and I was aware that the airspace along the entire panhandle of Florida is tricky due to several military bases. I did my due diligence, and was able to fly successfully. Here are the steps I took:

  1. Find out who I am actually supposed to contact. This appears to be the document that outlines all of the relevant information:
  2. E-mailed a copy of the form to I actually e-mailed that address first to verify that was the correct procedure, and they sent me a copy of the form as a Word doc, which was easier to edit than the PDF.
    1. I had to outline when and where I was flying, and provide my sUAS registration information
    2. An Airspace Manager from the USAF replied:
    3. My office can handle your request to use a sUAS IVO Seagrove Beach.  That location is within Part 93 airspace but outside of Eglin Restricted airspace and the controlled airspace around airfields.  Please fill out the attached form and return to me and I will forward to the appropriate ATC facility for acknowledgement.  For this specific request, please operate outside of Restricted Airspace, Controlled Airspace, and Eglin property at 400 feet AGL and below.  If you desire to operate within 5 SM of one of the airfields in the future, please let me know and I will coordinate their requirements at that time.

  3. I was unsure if I had to wait for a response or not. He followed up with me after to clarify that “You did effectively provide notice to the ATC facilities by submitting our request form and was able to operate” – so at least for the area I was at, this e-mail and form just served as notice to ATC, not a request for permission
  4. The MOA (practice area) that Seagrove / 30A is under is active on weekdays fro 6am to 9pm, and can be active on the weekends. We did see several fighters operating at 1,000+ feet, several military helicopters under 1,000 ft, a C-130 operating maybe half a mile out over the ocean, and a few other planes also over the ocean. I checked to make sure there were no NOTAMS applicable for the time I was flying on Saturday (I didn’t see any, assuming I was searching the right place), and I flew around the time I said I was going to in the notice.
  5. I looked at the screen on the remote far less than I usually do, making sure to scan East and West to make sure there were no aircraft approaching. Thankfully, planes in this particular airspace must fly E->W or W-E, and being at the beach, visibility is easily 10+ miles each direction. No planes were active this early in the morning. We did, however, see a couple Ospreys around 9am flying extremely low right along the coast.

The process really was not hard at all. I wish I had heard back from the USAF sooner that I was just providing notice, and I could have flown on Thursday and Friday, but thankfully I got what I wanted on Saturday.

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