There was a discussion at the 2018 HeliExpo and at the recent CAMTS Board meeting regarding hospital helipads and Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS). The development of UAS technology in the private sector and the FAA’s limitation in developing airspace regulations to ensure that they will not interfere with air medical operations is an issue of concern, especially with the number of private and business UAS increasing every day.
The FAA has Operational Limitations (PART 107) for UAS that limit the altitude to 400 feet AGL and operations around Class B, C, D, and E airspace with ATC permission. There are also Flight Restrictions over Sporting events with a seating capacity of 30,000 or more (FDC NOTAM 4/3621) but there is no FAA separation rule governing operations around a hospital helipad.
One of the reasons is that the FAA’s database on the location of hospital helipads is probably, by their own estimation, only 50% accurate. Since hospital helipads are considered private and therefore subject only to Advisory Circulars, many hospitals do not register the “Airport Master Record” – FAA Form 5010-3 – in the first place – when it is built. Most also do not turn in a Notice for Construction, Alteration, and Deactivation of airports FAA Form 7480-1 when the helipad is moved, deconstructed or altered. We all know that hospitals add, change and rebuild frequently. The FAA puts out the location of hospital helipads to the public – but this information only has a 50% chance to be correct.
CAMTS site surveyors visit hospital helipads that are either in the control of the air medical service or if an independent service bases its aircraft on a hospital helipad. In these cases, the site surveyors are asking to see the FAA Form 5010 or Form 7480 to determine if this is current and accurate. This is one way to assist the FAA with correct information so that as new regulations catch up to an exploding UAS population, we can help to stipulate airspace around hospital helipads. This is one way to help improve the safety and protection of our airspace as the UAS technology and popularity continue to expand.