General diagram* of the range flight approval process:

*Courtesey of the Warm Springs FAA UAS Test Range

Pan-Pacific UAS Test Range Complex

Flight Planning Guide



The purpose of this flight planning guide (FPG) is to identify information regarding the proposed operation and control of a specific UAS in the Test Range. While the capability to execute UAS operations is must be flexible enough to recognize that each system, sub-system, ancillary piece of equipment, and their required readiness procedures are different, there are several basic flight safety provisions that must be followed.


This FPG will remain a “living guide” regarding the operation of each system in that it is recognized that there are presently no standard FAA approved FPG procedures for any UAS which ensure that UAS flight operations are conducted in a safe manner and in accordance with operating procedures established by the Test Site and the FAA. This FPG will set forth procedures designed to identify system capabilities & vulnerabilities and verify that adequate safeguards exist to protect against the National Airspace System (NAS)


Because of the nature of UAS being relatively new to aviation, the uniqueness of each vehicle and mission is designed such that this document will undergo continuous changes as it adapts to both the NAS and the individual system needs.



An FPG will serve as the Mission Planning Guide as it is designed to adhere to each systems limitations and capabilities as it administers changes to the NAS.  The FPG will be developed for each mission and will be submitted to the FAA NLT 30 days prior to each mission date.


The Mission Commander shall ensure the FPG is developed in concurrence with all applicable FAA rules and regulations.


As subsequent missions are performed and the FPG develops further, subsequent versions will be submitted to the FAA as they evolve.  Changes to the FPG will be documented in a cover letter as each subsequent version is submitted.


Required Information

  • Mission:  Provide a brief overview of the UAS mission(s) and capabilities.



    Explain whether the proposed test will, or is expected to, exceed limitations used to predict mean time between failure or other safety models.

    Develop then provide fault trees and/or failure mode effects analysis.



  • VehicleUser Handbook –

    Is UAS user handbook available? Please attach.

    Is sub-system user handbook available?  Attach

    Is Ancillary system user handbook available? Attach

    Physical Characteristics

    Measurements - wingspan, fuselage length, body diameter


    Weight - empty and max load

    Fuel - type and capacity

    Landing style/type

    Propulsion SystemEngines –




    horsepower rating,

    electrical power source

    Fuel Volume and Consumption Monitors

    Limitations and Failure Modes

    By environmental conditions (temperature, icing, dust)

    Confirmed by test data

    Considered in test plan

    Performance Characteristics

    Performance Charts

    Takeoff and Landing

    Distances for maximum weights

    Maximum crosswind tolerance

    Maximum Altitude

    Maximum Endurance

    Maximum Range

    Range vs. Altitude (Comm Link)

    Airspeed –





    Rate of Climb (degrees)

    Rate of Descent (degrees)

    Weather Minimums (?)


    Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) conditions

    Flight Reference Data

    On-board sources of position, altitude, heading, altitude, and airspeed information to the UAS operator or autopilot


    Transponder - Does the UAS have an on-board transponder with Mode C altitude reporting?



    Payload Options - What payload(s) will be used on the UAS during operations?

    Hazardous Materials - List all materials that require special handling, such as flammable, toxic, energy storage, or ordinance. Include flight termination system if applicable.


  • Command and Control Systems: Brief paragraph that describes the systems/methods used to control the UAS during flight; include frequencies where appropriate.

    Control Method - primary and secondary

    Satellite or Line of Sight

    Frequency Allocation - Is there a frequency allocation for all RF links? On what frequencies do the UAS systems operate? What is the effect of radio frequency interference on the command and control system?

    Command Link Range - What is demonstrated range of primary command and control (C2) transmitter and receiver

    Backup –

    Is there a backup C2 transmitter and receiver?

    Does the backup have the same effective radiated power?

    Is the backup link sufficiently protected from spurious command signals?

    Link Analysis

    Briefly explain how RF link analysis was performed to verify that both primary and backup transmitters can communicate with vehicle at furthest point of planned operation?  

    Does link analysis address all RF links?

    Uplinks from primary and backup ground stations

    Secondary uplinks from each ground station

    Downlinks to primary and backup ground stations

    Flight termination link

    Is there at least 12 dB of signal excess in FTS link?

    Explain how it was determined that the vehicle primary and backup command and control receivers and FTS receivers are operating at specified sensitivity?

    Did our link analysis consider the RF horizon?

    What is the maximum range for each link?

    List each link separately here

    Briefly explain how we determine if the primary and backup transmitters are radiating manufacturers specified output power?

    Frequency Masking

    Are there any nulls in the C2 transmitter antenna pattern?

    Are there areas of RF masking due to location of antennas on the UAS relative to their position and to ground station antennas? (during turns or pitch?)

    Are there any RF null spots in the C2 link based on the position or orientation of the UAS relative to the control station?

    Do the operators know where these nulls are and have mission profiles been designed to avoid these nulls?

    Multipath –

    What is the link susceptibility to multipath?

    What is the system response if multipath is experienced?

    Takeoff and Landing - What is method?

    Navigation System - What is the source of navigation information for the operator? Are there redundant sources?


  • OperationsCrew

    Requirements - Please list the total number of personnel involved in the mission and their associated job functions.

    Experience - Detail the crew’s flight qualifications, experience, and currency with this UAS. How recently did each crewmember fly this type of UAS?

    Safety - What information does the crew have to make safety related decisions?


    Set-up Time - Upon arrival, how much set-up time is required to prepare for initial flight?

    Pre-Flight Checks -- Describe typical ground checks for the UAS and control system.

    Launch - Please describe the takeoff procedure and handoff method in detail.

    Recovery - Please describe the recovery and landing procedure in detail.

    Turnaround Time - Describe any required post-flight maintenance and the turnaround time between missions.


  • Failure (Risk) ManagementSafety HistoryFlight history

    Estimated total system hours based on this UAS

    Approximate hours logged by all PPUTRC operators

    Mishap history - List the mishap history of the UAS

    Identify for the record major failure modes.

    List known system-fault crashes or failures have occurred with this UAS?

    List known system-fault crashes or failures have occurred while a test system

    List crashes or failures attributed to human error

    Corrective actions taken to correct for past mishaps, crashes or failures

    Corrective actions implemented to circumvent any known system-fault crashes or failures

    Corrective actions implemented to circumvent any human error caused crashes or failures

    Demonstrated ReliabilityEstimated time between equipment failures

    Calculated from analytical or empirical data

    Environmental and performance limitations used to estimate reliability figures

    Hazard Analyses –derived from overall Safety Review of system vs. mission


    Explain how we implement and ensure our software safety program

    Software controlled components - What flight critical components are software controlled?

    Analyses - Have any software safety analyses been performed?

    Loss of Command and Control (C2) Link

    Describe in a paragraph what happens when the C2 link is lost. Include UAS actions and flight crew actions.

    Describe how the UAS responds if the command link is never re-established?

    Recognition of loss - Operator and UAS

    Explain how the operator recognizes loss of the command link?

    Explain how the UAS recognizes loss of the command link?

    Back-up Command and Control - How is backup control initiated?

    Loss of navigation

    Explain how the UAS and vehicle autopilot respond to a loss of navigation signal.

    Explain how primary navigation loss is indicated to the ground station and operator.

    Back-up navigation

    Is there a secondary navigation system? (briefly describe)

    Does the UAS operator have access to any external sources of position information that could serve as a backup (radar, IFF, binoculars)?

    If the UAS operator loses primary position information, is control also lost?

    Return home modes

    Conditions that cause return home mode

    Describe location point, path, and altitudeSelection

    Safeguards to prevent erroneous selection

    Ability to update in-flight

    Intermediate waypoints

    Multiple points

    Airspace boundaries and compatibility

    Line of sight from control station

    Vehicle action and sequence of events upon reaching return home point

    In event operator does not regain control

    Fail-safe events


    Navigation during return home mode

    In event GPS is unavailable or jammed

    Pre-flight check

    Loss of Flight Reference Data - How does the vehicle respond to loss of primary sources for position, altitude, heading, and airspeed and what are the indications of these losses to the UAS operator?

    Unresponsive Flight Controls

    What will happen if a servo or flight control sticks or becomes unresponsive?

    How does the autopilot respond?

     Is there a backup?

    How quickly will the UAS operator recognize this?

    What happens if the throttle is stuck?

    How will the UAS operator recognize this condition?

    Is there a recovery procedure?

    Loss of Propulsion

    How does UAS respond to engine or motor failure?

    Can engine or motor be restarted in flight?

    Is electrical power lost if engine or motor stop during flight?

    Will there be sufficient link-control and electrical power for “controlled ditch” or “dead-stick landing”?

    Loss of Electrical Power –

    Describe UAS response if electrical power is lost.

    Describe C2 response if GCS electrical power is lost

    Describe back-up electrical systems and expected operating time.

    Describe what happens if the UAS is too far away to make it back before this time?


    Expected time life

    Life meter


    Bus - Are there essential buses for reduced power operations and are all flight essential systems on this bus?

    Uninterruptible power source for ground operations

    Backup command and emergency systems protection

    Does load shedding occur if power is lost?

    Are there any effects on the flight termination system?

    Subsystem Failure

    Failures that result in abort

    Failures that result in UAS unable to fly

    Flight Termination System (FTS)

    FTS function (briefly explain)

    FTS activation (briefly explain)

    How is the FTS activated? (briefly explain)

    Does it activate if battery backup fails? (briefly explain)

    Does it operate on independent battery circuit? (briefly explain)

    Activation authority (briefly explain)

    Flight termination criteria

    Tracking data (briefly explain)

    Lack of containment in operating range (briefly explain)

    Return home failure (briefly explain)

    UAS below RF horizon

    Sequence of events after activation (briefly explain)

    Propulsion terminated

    Tumble or glide





    Range (exceed maximum flight range)

    Testing and certification

    Independence from other vehicle systems



    Signal processing

    Power supply

    Fail Safe Mode

    Activation criteria

    Sequence of events upon activation

    Time delay between activation and sequence of events


    Deployment altitude

    Impact and drift rate

    Rate of descent at max weight

    Deployment limitations




    Weight-on-gear inhibit


    Status telemetry to ground

    Engine shutoff


    Failure of engine shutdown

    Can propeller cut shroud line?



    Pre-planned locations

    Selection and criteria

    Free of population

    Attainable from any point in flight path

    Collision Avoidance: Describe procedures utilized for collision avoidance, including UAS response time to flight change commands.Airspace

    Exclusive or shared

    Compatibility with other aircraft or missions

    Risk reduction to other aircraft (explain avoidance strategy)

    Manned aircraft communication

    ATC communication

    Flight Routes

    Consideration of published standard approaches and departures

    Standoff distances

    Densely populated areas

    Hazardous sites

    Civilian airfields

    Surface structures (includes vessels, roads, power lines, pipelines, etc.)

    Published or known airways

    Means of Detect, Sense and Avoid (DSA) (explain total risk mitigation strategy)

    Collision Prevention Markers (lights, strobes, high-vis paint scheme)

    Loss of IFF


    Notification of ground operator

    Chase Aircraft

    Type of flight following (parallel, S-turns, high or low offset)

    Standoff distance

    Continuous surveillance and procedure if observer loses sight of UAS

    Communications between PIC, chase pilot and ground safety

    In the Event of a Crash:

    Could crash cause a fire?

    Could crash cause a hazardous materials release incident?

    Could crash cause an explosive reaction?

    What warnings (if any) do Public Safety First Responders need to know before approaching the UAS? (explosive bolts, hazmat leaks, poisonous gasses, etc.)


  • Ground SupportGround control stations (GCS) - Please describe the ground stations involved in the UAS operations. Include mission control stations, launch/recovery stations and payload control stations as appropriate. For each GCS list:

    Function of station

    Desired placement location (i.e., in hangar, on runway)

    Power and infrastructure requirements

    What happens if power is lost?

    Logistics Support - For each item below, please list exact requirements and how facility/equipment will be used:

    Hangar facilities (in square feet)

    Office space

    Telephone requirements (number of lines)

    Computer equipment (number of workstations, printers, internet access)

    Handheld communications (number of units and channels required)


    Tow/support vehicles

    Portable generators

    Classified handling/security provisions


7.0 Configuration Management

      7.1. All changes to the UAS will be logged.

      7.2. Any changes to the UAS will be evaluated by the range Aeronautical Safety Engineer to determine if the airworthiness statement is still valid.


8.0 Air Traffic Service Provider Coordination/Communication

A specific plan for communicating with the controlling and adjacent Air Traffic Service providers will include contingency plans, phone numbers and any other pertinent information as designated by the parties involved.