The FAA has eased off drone flight restrictions around the Ronald Reagan National Airport and Washington, D.C. An update to the Special Flight Rules Area (SFRA) was posted today on the FAA website.
The new restrictions call for a no-fly zone in a 15 mile radius of Washington, DC, and a different SFRA in the area between 15 – 30 miles. The new operating procedures will allow “model aircraft, commercial and public users to operate in the outer ring of the Special Flight Rules Area (SFRA) under specific conditions.”
Under the new procedures, hobbyists and recreational unmanned aircraft operators can fly aircraft that weigh less than 55 lbs. (including any attachments such as a camera) in the area between 15 and 30 miles of Washington, D.C. if the aircraft are registered and marked, and they 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, only fly in clear conditions, and avoid other aircraft.
Drone operators are still required to notify the airport, heliport and air traffic control tower, if there is one, before operating within a 5 mile radius of any airport. Commercial or Public drone operators must register and make their drones, have the correct authorization, and provide the FAA with a 1-hour notice before operating to provide specific flight information.
The step back in flight restrictions represents a return to the regulations as they existed prior to December 29, 2015, when the FAA updated the no-fly zone around Washington, DC to 30 miles. Before that, a statement published on June 30, 2015, ahead of the July 4 celebration, reminded the public that the 15-mile radius around Ronald Reagan Airport and Washington, DC was a no-fly zone. The DC area is designated by the FAA as “National Defense Airspace” and as such is subject to special restrictions: in addition, there are criminal penalties for disregarding the restrictions and the potential for use of “deadly force” to deal with a drone perceived as an imminent threat.
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
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