The FAA is putting unauthorized drone operators on notice – stay away from Hurricane Florence response missions.
In a press release today, the federal agency warned UAV pilots they may incur “significant fines” for any interference in emergency operations in the aftermath of the Category 3 storm.
“Many aircraft that are conducting life-saving missions and other critical response and recovery efforts are likely to be flying at low altitudes over areas affected by the storm. Allow first responders to save lives and property without interference,” the release states.
The agency notes that piloting an unauthorized drone in or near the disaster area could violate federal, state, or local laws and ordinances and may disrupt rescue operations. The prohibition applies even if a Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) is not in place.
As of Wednesday, Florence was moving northwestward around 385 miles southeast of the North Carolina coast.
“Hurricane Florence will slow down, performing an agonizing crawl through the Carolinas and Southeast into early next week, producing catastrophic inland rainfall flooding, life-threatening storm surge and destructive winds,” the Weather Channel reports.
The FAA added:
“Government agencies with an FAA Certificate of Authorization (COA) or flying under Part 107, as well as private sector Part 107 drone operators who want to support response and recovery operations, are strongly encouraged to coordinate their activities with the local incident commander responsible for the area in which they want to operate.”
Authorized drone pilots flying in support of emergency responses must contact the FAA’s System Operations Support Center (SOSC) by emailing [email protected] with necessary information before entering the airspace.
The FAA lauded drone assistance efforts following devastating hurricanes that slammed Florida and Texas last year, calling the support efforts a “landmark in the evolution of drone usage.”
Last year, AT&T deployed drones following devastating hurricanes in Puerto Rico, The company’s Flying COWs (Cell on Wings) reconnected hurricane-stricken victims with wireless service.
Embry-Riddle University assisted the Daytona Beach Police Department in damage assessment following Hurricane Irma. A trio of aviation professors launched drones to photograph damages and document areas hit the hardest.
Jason is a longstanding contributor to DroneLife with an avid interest in all things tech. He focuses on anti-drone technologies and the public safety sector; police, fire, and search and rescue.
Beginning his career as a journalist in 1996, Jason has since written and edited thousands of engaging news articles, blog posts, press releases and online content.