FAA Places New Drone Restrictions on Energy Dept. Facilities

At the request of U.S. national security and law enforcement agencies, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says it is using its existing authority under Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations § 99.7 – “Special Security Instructions” – to address concerns about unauthorized drone operations over seven U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) facilities.

According to an announcement from the FAA, the two agencies have agreed to restrict drone flights up to 400 feet within the lateral boundaries of these sites:

  • Hanford Site in Franklin County, Wash.;
  • Pantex Site in Panhandle, Texas;
  • Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, N.M.;
  • Idaho National Laboratory in Idaho Falls, Idaho;
  • Savannah River National Laboratory in Aiken, S.C.; and
  • Y-12 National Security Site and Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

The airspace restrictions are shown in an FAA Notice to Airmen (NOTAM), and the details about where drone flights are restricted are here.

The FAA notes that these restrictions are pending until they become effective on Dec. 29. There are only a few exceptions that permit drone flights within these restrictions, and they must be coordinated with the individual facility and/or the FAA, according to the agency.

The agency notes that operators who violate the airspace restrictions may be subject to enforcement action, including potential civil penalties and criminal charges.

This is the first time the agency has placed specific airspace restrictions for unmanned aircraft over DOE sites, the FAA notes. It has placed similar restrictions over military bases, as well as several Department of Interior facilities, including the Statue of Liberty and Mount Rushmore.

The FAA says it is considering additional requests from other federal security agencies.


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