Class C Airspace for Drone Pilots, Explained
Note: This article does not provide legal advice. Please consult an attorney to verify the accuracy of the information contained herein.
Introduction to Class C Airspace
Generally, Class C extends from surface to 4,000 feet above the airport elevation, with its ceiling expressed in hundreds of feet MSL. For example, in the image below 4,200 feet is written as 42. The horizontal radius of the inner shelf generally extends five nautical miles (NM). An outer circle with a ten NM radius extends from 1,200 feet to 4,000 feet above the airport elevation.
This upside down wedding cake configuration allows arriving and departing aircraft to remain in Class C airspace while separated from other aircraft.
Class C is indicated by two solid magenta concentric circles. Vertical boundaries are indicated by two bold magenta numbers, one over the other, separated by a bold horizontal line. i.e. 42/SFC or 42/15 as shown in the image below. Altitudes in Class C are inclusive, meaning they go up to and include the indicated altitude.
Not Always a Perfect Circle
The shape of Class C airspace isn’t always circular and may follow the shape of terrain since Class C airports are serviced by radar and therefore limited to radar coverage.
How to Fly Your Drone in Class C Airspace
A remote pilot must receive authorization before operating in Class C airspace. The most likely area of operation would be within the inner circle since it begins at surface level. Since the outer ring begins at 1,200 MSL it’s not likely a drone would be operating in this area.
Prep for the Part 107 Exam
Refer to the Sectional Aeronautical Chart found in the Chart Supplement FAA-CT-8080-2H. During the exam you can refer to this chart to remind you of how to identify Class C.
Need More Information?
If you still have questions on airspace check out our Part 107 courses and get certified as a commercial drone pilot.