In response to concerns from both military and national security experts, the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on April 7th released new guidelines restricting the use of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), or drones, over 133 military installations across the United States. These guidelines would make drone flights over certain military and government installations a violation of federal law. Operators who violate these airspace restrictions may be subject to potential civil penalties and criminal charges. This is the first time the agency has instituted airspace restrictions that specifically apply only to unmanned aircraft.
These new restrictions build upon previous FAA actions banning all drones within a 15-mile radius of Washington, D.C.’s Reagan National Airport, an area that covers the Pentagon and numerous other federal government facilities. Drones are also banned around major sports stadiums when games take place (for reference, the portion of the 2017 Super Bowl halftime show using drones was pre-recorded for television audiences.)
As a catalyst for this action, last month the FAA said it estimated that the number of use of small hobbyist drones would more than triple from an estimated 1.1 million vehicles in 2016 to more than 3.5 million by 2021. To view a NACo County News article detailing the UAS expansion, click here.
Counties have been at the forefront of the UAS industry’s growth, utilizing this new technology for emergency response and infrastructure inspection duties, among other functions. However, as certain identification, safety and enforcement issues persist, NACo continues to contribute to federal UAS policy through its representation on the FAA Drone Advisory Committee (DAC). NACo is the only association representing local governments on that panel. The DAC is scheduled to meet for the third time on May 3rd in Loudon County, Virginia.
NACo will continue to engage federal agencies and elected representatives on the formulation of UAS policy. The current FAA extension set to expire on September 30, 2017, and a new authorization could include significant changes to drone policies.
To read the official FAA announcement, click here.
To view an interactive FAA map identifying UAS restricted areas, click here.