The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has updated its conditions for flying unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in an area between 15 and 30 miles from Washington, D.C.
As of 12:01 a.m. EST, Wednesday, Feb. 10, the operating procedures will allow hobbyist, commercial and public users to operate in the outer ring of this Special Flight Rules Area (SFRA) under specific conditions.
The SFRA rule still prohibits UAS operations within 15 miles of Washington, D.C., in the Flight Restricted Zone without specific FAA authorization, the agency explains.
Under the new procedures, hobbyist UAS operators can fly aircraft that weigh under 55 lbs. (including any attachments) in the area between 15 and 30 miles of Washington, D.C., if the aircraft are registered and marked and follow specific operating conditions. The operating conditions require them to fly 400 feet or lower above the ground, stay in the operator’s line of sight, fly in clear conditions and avoid other aircraft.
If hobbyists intend to operate within five miles of an airport or heliport, the new procedures also require them to notify the airport, heliport and air traffic control tower – if there is one – before operating.
Commercial and other non-model aircraft operators must register and mark their unmanned aircraft, have an exemption and comply with it, and notify the FAA an hour before operating to provide specific flight information.
Public operators, such as federal, state or local governments, must also register and mark their aircraft, have the appropriate FAA authorization to operate and complete the same one-hour notification before operating.
The Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA), which notes that the FAA recently doubled the D.C. metro area airspace in which UAS cannot fly, is voicing its support for the new procedures, the group says in a blog post.
“After weeks of working closely with the FAA to find a resolution, the 14 AMA-charted clubs in the D.C. metro area can now return to safe operations, starting on February 10,” says AMA.