Commercial Drones PilotsPax UAS Airspace Coordinators Collaborate with Local Archaeologists

July 14, 2021by helo-10

PATUXENT RIVER NAVAL AIR STATION, MD–Although the discovery of St. Mary’s Fort in Historic St. Mary’s City (HSMC) was made using technology not involving an unmanned aerial system (UAS), a drone was part of the HSMC researchers’ archaeological toolkit, and that meant seeking approval to fly from the NAS Patuxent River UAS Airspace Coordinator.

In 2018, Director of Research and Collections for Historic St. Mary’s City Dr. Travis Parno and his team located the outline of the fort — the founding site of the Maryland colony, erected in 1634 — and excavation verified it in 2019. It was around that time when Air Traffic Controller 1st Class James “Cody” Green, Pax River’s then-UAS Airspace Coordinator, began working with HSMC to help them understand the qualifications and regulations governing UAS flights over the site, which is close to Webster Outlying Field, to ensure they would be in compliance with FAA and Pax River policy.

Historic St. Mary’s City Director of Research and Collections Dr. Travis Parno, center, talks with archaeologists at the St. Mary’s Fort dig site, located not far from Webster Outlying Field. Parno had to obtain permission from the NAS Patuxent River UAS Airspace Coordinator before flying the drone he used to help document the site.

“We had planned to announce the discovery publicly on Maryland Day, March 25, 2020, but of course that didn’t work out,” said Parno, who explained it was during the COVID-19 pandemic that he took advantage of the shutdown to pass the written test and earn his Part 107 commercial UAS pilot’s license so he could fly the drone — an accomplishment he joked that a lifetime playing video games had helped him achieve.

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There is more to being a drone pilot than just buying a machine and flying in your backyard. It can be that simple, but most of us will need to understand some drone laws before we try to take to the sky.


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