Each month we have a deeper look at one aspect of the aviation environment that drones are operated in. This month we will give some more information on NOTAM’s.
NOTAM stands for Notice To Airmen.
NOTAM’s are notices or short snippets that contain important information for the men and women who fly aircraft. So that’s also essential for the men and women who fly unmanned aircraft or drones.
These notices inform pilots about closure of runways or airspaces, high obstacles like cranes in the vicinity of an airport, fire work displays, and so on. NOTAMs are specifically important to flight crews of airplanes and helicopters when it comes about airport operations for planning purposes (you don’t want to show up at your destination airfield after a 9hr transatlantic flight and just a little bit of fuel remaining , only to find out that the airfield is closed due to a local strike …)
For drone pilots, NOTAMS carry a lot of information that is particularly useful in knowing which airspace is out of limits for drone operations.
Think about military airspace that is activated for training helicopter missions, or danger areas that are activated and do not allow any traffic to fly in or through.
Also, sometimes NOTAMS are being issued to inform airplane or helicopter crews of drone operations. You will see these type of UAC NOTAMs either when they are in close proximity to airports or airfields or when they risk going a bit higher than normal and could interfere with low flying general aviation traffic. C5351/19 NOTAMN Q) EGTT/QWULW/IV/BO/AW/000/009/5115N00045W001
A) EGLF B) 1910130000 C) 1910252359
E) MULTIPLE DRONES OPERATING INSIDE THE FARNBOROUGH ATZ PSN _ 511522N 0004455W RADIUS 0.43NM, UP TO HGT600FT AGL / 853FT AMSL
G) 853FT AMSL
When looking at the NOTAM my eyes immediately scanned the snippet and focused on the free text stating ‘Multiple drones operating inside the …’, ‘600FT AGL’. But I realised I never really looked at the page filling abbreviations and codes in the rest of the snippet.
Even while we at IDRONECT provide drone pilots with visual NOTAM information on the flight chart I thought it might be a good idea to reveal the mystery behind the structure and elements of a NOTAM message.
We are all airmen arent’t we ?
First of all NOTAM messages follow an international standard. This standard is described by Annex 15 of the ICAO Convention. . It deals with Aeronautical Information Services. NOTAM formats are described in detail in Appendix 6 to this document.
Here’s a summary:
The NOTAM starts with a letter and an identification number. In this case C5351.
/19 is the applicable year.
It is a New NOTAM. NOTAMN, other possibilities are NOTAMR(replacing another NOTAM) and NOTAMC (cancelling another NOTAM)
Then there is a Qualifying Line starting with the letter Q, after which we get into more detail by describing the identifiers (letters A to G)
The Qualifying Line summarizes the scope of the NOTAM by listing the following items, all separated by a forward slash.
FIR / NOTAM Code / Traffic Purpose /Scope /Lower Limit/ Upper Limit/ Coordinates, Radius
- FIR : The applicable Flight Information Region. In this case EGTT (London Area)
- NOTAM CODE : total of five letters and the first letter is always the letter Q. The second and third letters identify the subject, and the fourth and fifth letters denote the status. Choosing these letters is a whole new subject but if you want to really dig deep, go to Doc8400 . In this case QWULW.
- TRAFFIC I = IFR, V = VFR, K = NOTAM is a checklist. In our example it is both for IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) and VFR (Visual Flight Rules).
- PURPOSE N = NOTAM selected for the immediate attention of flight crew members, B = NOTAM of operational significance selected for PIB entry, O = NOTAM concerning flight operations ,M = Miscellaneous NOTAM; not subject for a briefing, but it is available on request,K = NOTAM is a checklist . In this example we have a operational significant NOTAM. Yep, flying into drones at 800feet AGL in the airport area is significant alright !.
- SCOPE A = Aerodrome, E = En-route, W = Warning. Again the drones flying in the vicinity of the airfield would indeed justify an aerodrome warning.
- and 7) LOWER/UPPER LOWER and UPPER limits shall only be expressed in flight levels (FL). Flight levels are abbreviated forms of a flight altitude above the standard altimeter setting of 1013hPa. So 39000 feet above this pressure level would be abbreviated to FL390. We cut the last two zero’s. In this case 000 means ground level, and 009 means 900 feet.
- COORDINATES, RADIUS The latitude and longitude accurate to one minute, as well as a three-digit distance figure giving the radius of influence in NM (e.g. 4700N01140E043). 5115N00045W001 = 51degrees 15minutes North, 000 degrees (Greenwhich !) 45 minutes West and a radius of 1 NM (that’s the smallest we can go here).
Then we see the identifiers
A = aerodrome to which NOTAM is applicable. In our case EGLF = Farnborough
B = starting time described as year, month, day, hours and minutes in UTC. The start of the day is “0000”. In our example 1910130000 means 2019, October 13th at the start of the day.
C = ending time in the same format as described above. If the period is permanent then the term “PERM” is used. If it is uncertain when the period will end “EST”is added to say that the timing is estimated. End of day is “2359”. In our example 1910252359 means 2019, October 25th at the end of the day.
E = NOTAM Code, complemented where necessary by ICAO abbreviations, indicators, identifiers, designators, call signs, frequencies, figures and plain language. If the NOTAM is only for local use, local language can be used.
I think we already have a good idea what the NOTAM is about, but maybe the abbreviations ATZ, AMSL and AGL are interesting. ATZ = An aerodrome traffic zone (ATZ) is defined as: An airspace of defined dimensions established around an aerodrome for the protection of aerodrome traffic.
AMSL = above mean sea level
AGL = above ground level
F) and G) lower and upper height limits of activities or restrictions, with an indicaton of the reference.
In our example we are looking at F) SFC (surface) and G) 853FT AMSL
Where to find NOTAMS in IDRONECT ?
Of course that would be quite complicated to read all NOTAMS like that no ? We know. So we made it easy to manage all of the relevant NOTAM’s for drone pilots.
NOTAM’s can be found in three different ways. All of our plans come with up to date worldwide NOTAMs. We update every hour so you won’t miss out on any important ones.
The first place to show you the NOTAM’s is on the flight chart. That’s the place where you would create a flight in the first place
In the left section you will see this icon
When you click on it, the NOTAM’s will be shown on the flight map.
If you then click on the NOTAM area you will get the details, like shown here for an activated area by NOTAM in Croatia
The second and third place to find NOTAM information is once you created a flight scenario.
To recap, you can make a flight scenario months before you actually fly the scenario, so it can very well be that there was no NOTAM active at the moment you created it. But now that you will fly it, it is important to check the NOTAM’s once more.
So in the dashboard, go to one of the created flight scenarios and click on view.
Once you are in the scenario view, you can either click on the tab AIRSPACE or on the tab NOTAM to see all relevant NOTAMs.
When in the AIRSPACE tab, you can see the planned flight zone of the scenario you created. The same NOTAM icon shows up on the right side. Click on it and see if there are any NOTAMs active for your planned flight.
When you chose the NOTAM tab, you get the NOTAM’s in written form. But now you are fully proficient to read them in that way so that’s a piece of cake now.
Then you can filter the NOTAM’s to see all of them, only the ones that talk about zone activation, or only the ones that deal with events that are relevant below 500 feet.
That’s it for this blog article.
If you have any requests on subjects you like us to describe in-depth, let us know in the comments and leave us your feedback.
Happy Flying !