National Wildfire Coordinating Group

Aircraft Coordination and Separation

UASP and UASM are responsible for ensuring separation and deconfliction with manned aircraft on scene.

Do not fly UAS until you have established positive contact with on-scene aircraft/aerial supervision.

  1. Pilots shall maintain aircraft separation by:
    1. Adhering to FTA protocols.
    2. Using standard aviation see-and-avoid visual flight rules.
    3. Having access to the appropriate radio frequency for position reporting.
    4. Giving way to manned aircraft.

Aircraft Coordination Scenarios

There are four typical scenarios:

  1. Aerial supervision is on scene.
  2. Aerial supervision is not on scene, but other aircraft are.
  3. There are no aircraft on scene.
  4. Aircraft arrive on scene and UAS is in flight.

Aircraft Coordination Examples:

The following scripts are examples of how to safely integrate UAS into incident operations. UAS pilots plan for and be prepared for alternate direction.

Scenario 1: Aerial Supervision is on scene. Initiate radio contact with aerial supervision. Give your call sign, location, mission, and requested operating altitude.

“Harper River Air Attack, Unmanned Romeo 41 on Air-to-Ground.”

“Unmanned Romeo 41, Harper River Air Attack.”

“UR 41, on the ground Div. A, requesting altimeter.”

“Unmanned Romeo 41, Altimeter 30.02.”

“Harper River Air Attack Unmanned Romeo 41, altimeter 30.02, requesting 6500’ and below for UAS mission in Div. A.”

“Unmanned Romeo clear to lift, maintain 6,500 and below, AA is at 8,500 no other aircraft in your area. Advise when your mission is complete.”

“Unmanned Romeo 408 copies.”

Scenario 2: Aerial supervision is not on scene, but other aircraft are. The unmanned and manned aircraft pilots are responsible to maintain separation.

“Helicopter 32B, Unmanned Romeo 41 on Air-to-Ground.”

“Unmanned Romeo 41, Helicopter 32B.”

“32B, Unmanned Romeo 408 on the ground Div. C, say altimeter.”

“UR41, 32B altimeter 30.02.”

“32B will remain on the ground, advise when your mission is complete.”

“32B Copies, I’ll advise when clear.”

“Unmanned Romeo 41 copies, standing by.”

Scenario 3: No aircraft on scene. The UASP must verify that no aircraft are on scene. Call dispatch and the IC to confirm and then make a blind call on air-to-ground prior to launch.

“Dispatch Unmanned Romeo 41, on command.”

“UR41 Dispatch.”

“UR41 operating on the Harper River Fire please advise any aircraft in route to the incident.”

“Dispatch copies, will advise.”

“UR41, in the blind, altimeter 29.92, at or below 5500’ any aircraft in the vicinity of the Harper River Fire, please advise on Air-to-Ground.”

Scenario 4: UAS is in flight and incoming aircraft calls in the blind. The UASP must respond and coordinate with the incoming aircraft.

“Harper River Fire air traffic, Helicopter 42B is 12 miles out, inbound from the south.”

“Helicopter 42B, Unmanned Romeo 41, altimeter 29.92, at or below 2,500’, on Div. B.”

“Helicopter 42B copies, altimeter 29.92, will maintain 3,500’, en route to Div. B for bucket work.”

“Unmanned Romeo 41 copies, returning to Drop Point 31 to land.”

Table 2-Vertical Separation (typical aircraft altitudes)

Mission Altitude (agl) Normal Pattern
Media As assigned Right or left
ATGS - Fixed-Wing 2,000 to 2,500 Right
ATGS - Helicopter 500 to 2,000 Right or left
Airtanker Orbit 1,000 to 1,500 Left - outside to observe
Airtanker Maneuvering 150 to 1,000 Left
Lead Plane 150 to 1,000 Left
Helicopter 0 to 500 (hard ceiling) Left or right
Smokejumper Ram Air Chute 3,000 Left
Smokejumper Round Chute 1,500 Left
Paracargo 150 to 1,500 Left
Unmanned Aircraft (T1) 3,500 and above Variable
Unmanned Aircraft (T2) 3,500 and above Variable
Unmanned Aircraft (T3) 2,500 and below Variable
Unmanned Aircraft (T4) 1,200 and below Variable

Horizontal Separation

  1. UAS crews must ensure there is adequate visibility to conduct operations safely regardless of the airspace classification.
  2. Patterns must be adequate and not hindered by terrain.
  3. Consult aerial supervision or on-scene aircraft before finalizing patterns and routes. UAS may be required to report arrival at a check point or virtual fence and wait for clearance from ATGS before proceeding. ​

Known geographic locations make effective check points and virtual fences.





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