FAA Announces First Drone-Specific Airspace Restrictions

Drone operators take note—the FAA has announced its first drone-specific airspace restriction, and more restrictions may follow. 

One of the most pressing concerns about drones is the need to protect certain locations for national security reasons.  On April 7, 2017, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced new restrictions that prohibit unauthorized drone operations over certain military bases.  Effective April 14, 2017, drone flights will be restricted up to 400 feet within the lateral boundaries of 133 military facilities.  The FAA has created an interactive map to help make the public aware of the restricted locations.  Operators who violate the restrictions are subject to enforcement actions including potential civil penalties and criminal charges. 

These restrictions mark the first time that the FAA has instituted airspace restrictions that specifically apply only to drones.  The FAA will likely enact additional drone-specific airspace restrictions in the future.  Last summer, Section 2209 of the FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016 directed the Secretary of Transportation to “establish a process to allow applicants to petition the Administrator of the [FAA] to prohibit or restrict the operation of an unmanned aircraft in close proximity to a fixed site facility,” such as critical infrastructure, oil refineries and chemical facilities, amusement parks, and other locations that warrant such restrictions.  The FAA’s news release noted that the Department of Transportation and the FAA are currently evaluating options to implement such a process.    

More information about this and other provisions in the FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016 is available here.


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