UK- Introducing the Airspace User Portal The new tool for Non-Standard Flight Applications

UK- Introducing the Airspace User Portal The new tool for Non-Standard Flight Applications

NATS is pleased to announce the launch of the Airspace User Portal (AUP) on Thursday 11th April 2019.

Non-Standard Flights (NSFs) have seen a 167% increase in applications over the last few years and this continues to grow. To keep up with the increased volume it has been necessary for us to update our process and introduce a more efficient and streamlined systemised approach, updating the ability for airspace users to access controlled airspace.

An increase in recreational and commercial drone use combined with changes to the Air Navigation Order will put pressure on Non Standard Flight applications and UK airspace in general. In anticipation of the exponential growth in the need to access controlled airspace, NATS have pioneered the Airspace User Portal as a focal point for processing such requests.

The portal is designed for all those who need access to controlled airspace (outside of commercial traffic filing flight plans), as well as those authorities who process the applications. It covers drone users (commercial and recreational), Commercial Aviation, General Aviation, Parachutists, Balloon releases etc. It is designed to be an easy and practical application to both the operator/end user and the approving authorities.

The AUP is hosted on a webpage that has been produced in conjunction with Altitud Angel and has been designed to be as user-friendly as possible. The front page is self-explanatory and gives all users a portal that can be used from a computer, tablet, or mobile phone. The interaction with different platforms will improve as the AUP develops.

The fundamental NSF process remains the same and you are required to apply for an NSF in advance as per the AIP and comply with the Air Navigation Order at all times. Your NSF request will be processed by the NSF team and you will receive an NSF ‘Approval in Principle’ via the system. On the day of your flight you will be required to activate your NSF via the AUP and await clearance via the AUP from the Ops Room/Airport as appropriate. Unless specifically notified on your NSF, there is no requirement to telephone the Ops Room. Please note the Ops Room will not be able to authorise or approve your NSF via telephone.

For NSFs in Restricted Areas R157, R158 and R159 there is now no requirement to telephone PaDP on the day of your flight, simply activate your NSF via the AUP and the PaDP Authorisation Number will be sent via the AUP to all relevant parties.

Use of the AUP does not automatically entitle a pilot to enter controlled airspace without a clearance; pilots are still required to remain outside controlled airspace and request clearance to enter from the appropriate ATC Unit. Air Traffic Control Approval/Clearance does not imply exemption from the requirements of the Air Navigation Order or the Rules of the Air Regulations and your flight is to be conducted in accordance with these at all times.

There are a few differences from our previous system and process to the new process via the AUP. A brief description and the reasoning behind this is explained here.

No NSF numbering

The NSF numbering system, e.g. NSF-001-2019, was used for a variety of reasons that are no longer necessary or required with the AUP. As NSFs were manually produced they were assigned a different number.

▪ As the system is now electronic the numbers are no longer required. The AUP does assign each NSF a random system generated number. Whilst we do not intend on using these numbers, you may be asked for a portion of the number to help us quickly search for your NSF, i.e. first 5 digits or the last 5 digits etc.

NSFs were issued per calendar year and the numbers were reset at the beginning of each year.

▪ As the numbering element has been removed there is no longer the requirement for NSFs to only run to the end of a calendar year. Operators can still apply for a blanket NSF for a period of up to 12 months, but it does not have to be annual, i.e. January to December.

No ‘EW’ numbers

It is accepted that the term ‘ENSF’ or Echo Whiskeys ‘EWs’ will undoubtably continue, as a reference to NSFs within R157, 158 and 159, however the AUP will not assign tasks or flights in these areas EW reference numbers.


We have always received a variety of different map types attached to an NSF application, which can then be labour intensive for us to transfer onto a map for our Ops room to use. The AUP contains an interactive mapping tool, which will present maps in a consistent format for our Ops Room.

There is an interactive mapping tool within the AUP. Survey companies with multiple blocks will be requested to submit an NSF for each block and on the day activate the NSFs that relate to the blocks they wish to fly.

Telephone Calls

The AUP aims to greatly reduce the volume of telephone calls to our ATC units.

▪ Operators must activate their NSF via the AUP and the NSF must be approved by the unit via the AUP. It will not be possible for our Ops Room to verbally approve an NSF over the telephone. On occasion, it may be necessary for an Operator to call the Ops Room prior to activating an NSF, to discuss best timings etc.

What does it look like?

The AUP is a simple webpage that is very straightforward to use, simply click on the required NSF type to begin. Each application involves a 3-step process.

▪ Step 1 Details – Your account information will be pulled across from your profile, saving you time having to input it for each application

▪ Step 2 The location – The AUP contains a mapping tool to select the location of your flight

▪ Step 3 Check your application and submit – Check the details and go back if required, then submit

The AUP will go live on Thursday 11th April 2019. From this date you will be able to access the AUP, set up your account details and start submitting applications. For drone applications you can start submitting with immediate effect. For all other application types, i.e. commercial aircraft, please note our Ops Room will not go live on the AUP until 25th April, therefore please submit these with a start date of no earlier than 25th April as we will not be able to process these, and it will result in your application being rejected and you having to re-submit.

Existing NSFs

Any existing NSFs that were given a blanket extension have now been given an expiry date of 24th April 2019, 23:59. NSFs will no longer be valid after this time and our Ops Room will not be able to issue clearance for these NSFs. Access The NSF function of the AUP is accessed via and you can access the site from the live date, set up your account details and start submitting applications via the new portal.

A User Guide for the AUP is being sent separately. Evaluation/Feedback The AUP will be evaluated for a period of six months. During this time please direct any questions and feedback, using the following email: