Class D 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 D Airspace
Class D is the simplest airspace to understand so we’ll have you through this in just a few minutes.
Class D airports need an operational control tower to coordinate airport operations. Remember this important distinction later when we introduce Class E airspace, which don’t necessarily have an Air Traffic Control Tower.
Class D is unique and easy to identify because its vertical ceiling altitude is marked with a bold, blue-boxed number on the chart. Likewise, its boundaries are indicated by a blue-dashed line.
Generally, Class D extends from surface to 2,500 feet above the airport elevation, with its ceiling expressed in hundreds of feet MSL. In this example the altitude is  or 6,600 feet MSL. If there were a minus ceiling value here it would indicate surface up to but not including that value. It’s an important distinction and you may see a question on the exam using the minus indicator.
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 D.
Not Always a Perfect Circle
Class D only has one circular ring to identify its horizontal boundaries. Often that ring will have rectangular shapes extending out or circular shapes cutting in. See the first image in this article for an example. Those are Class D extensions and are designed to protect IFR aircraft on arrival and departure.
Other airspace could modify the Class D airspace as well. Such as when another, typically larger Class B airspace intrudes on Class D boundaries.
How to Fly Your Drone in Class D Airspace
Authorization is required to fly an sUAS within Class D airspace. Until recently a waiver had to be requested, but now you can usually get auto-approval using apps which support LAANC, such as Aloft. From that app’s airspace view you would drop a pin at the desired location and tap on “Get Authorization” to begin the request process. Airspace view shows the maximum altitude that available at each location within the airspace, such as 50′ or 300′ as shown below.
Need More Information?
If you still have questions on airspace check out our Part 107 courses and get certified as a commercial drone pilot.