No Drones Allowed at Washington State’s 486-Acre Capitol Campus

Washington state’s Department of Enterprise Services (DES) has adopted rules that prohibit launching, landing or operating unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) on the Capitol campus in Olympia.

The 486-acre campus includes the capitol, legislative and judicial buildings; the governor’s mansion; 15 state agency office buildings; 18 public monuments and works of art; Capitol Lake; and Centennial, Heritage, Marathon and Sylvester parks.

According to DES, the new rules apply to both hobbyist and commercial unmanned aircraft. The prohibition does not apply to UAS used for emergency response by law enforcement and other first-response agencies. There is also a provision within the rule that allows drone use for the care and custody of the campus – but only with prior written approval by the DES director.

Before drafting a proposed rule, DES held four stakeholder workshops and consulted with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). After proposing the rule, DES held a 41-day public comment period, including a Dec. 22, 2015, public hearing.

The rule becomes effective Feb. 11.

DES says it took a proactive approach to adopting the rules because safety is a crucial component of the department’s stewardship of the Capitol Campus. Though no specific incident on the campus prompted the rules, incidents across the nation and around world in which unmanned aircraft have injured people, interfered with emergency responses and caused other problems are on the rise, according to DES.

“Bottom line – it’s a safety-first rule,” says Bob Covington, DES’ deputy director. “We are taking this proactive step to help ensure the safety of everyone who visits the Capitol Campus – from school children on tours to groups exercising free-speech rights to people participating in the legislative process and state business.”


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