FAA Loosens Restrictions on UAS Flights Over Some Federal Sites

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The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says it is working to minimize the impact of restrictions on drone operators flying near select federal facilities.

The FAA is currently working with the U.S. Department of Defense to establish intermittent restrictions on drone flights within the lateral boundaries of select federal facilities during specified times. Currently, drone operators are prohibited from flying at these locations at all times. The FAA is working to ensure that these restrictions are narrowly tailored and remain in effect only when necessary.

Notices to airmen will be issued in advance, indicating the sites where these intermittent restrictions will apply. Drone operators will be able to easily identify the status of the airspace at these locations using the FAA’s Unmanned Aircraft System UAS Data Display System’s (UDDS) interactive map, which will show the following:

  • The airspace shapes will appear gray when the §99.7 (special security instructions) airspace is inactive and no restrictions are placed on drone operators.
  • Approximately 24 hours before restrictions are activated, the designated airspace will change to yellow as a warning that restrictions will soon become active.
  • At the end of the 24-hour warning window, the designated airspace will change to red while the drone restrictions are in effect.
  • The specific activation times can also be viewed by clicking on the individual airspace shapes in UDDS. Operators are urged to check the UDDS website frequently before and during UAS flights, especially when operating near or within the defined airspace to which recurring transient special security instructions are applied.

These changes became effective on Sept. 1. The agency notes that there are exceptions that permit UAS operations within these restrictions, and those must be coordinated with the individual facility and/or the FAA.

Operators who violate the flight restrictions may be subject to enforcement action, including potential civil penalties, criminal charges or the loss of their UAS (as a result of counter-UAS activities).

The FAA is continuing to consider additional requests by eligible federal security agencies for UAS-specific flight restrictions using the agency’s existing authority under Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) §99.7 as they are received.

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