The increasing popularity of unmanned aircraft – popularly known as “drones” – has triggered the use of a special security regulation by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which wants to prevent the vehicles from flying over some of the nation’s military bases.
The agency is using its existing authority under Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) § 99.7 – “Special Security Instructions” – to address national security concerns about unauthorized drone operations over 133 military facilities.
This is the first time the agency has instituted airspace restrictions that specifically apply only to unmanned aircraft, popularly known as “drones.” The authority under § 99.7 is limited to requests based on national security interests from the Department of Defense and U.S. federal security and intelligence agencies.
“U.S. military facilities are vital to the nation’s security,” says the FAA in a statement.
The agency and the Department of Defense have agreed to restrict drone flights up to 400 feet within the lateral boundaries of these 133 facilities. The restrictions will be effective April 14, 2017.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.
Operators who violate the airspace restrictions may be subject to enforcement action, including potential civil penalties and criminal charges.
To ensure the public is aware of these restricted locations, the FAA has created an interactive map online. The link to these restrictions is also included in the FAA’s B4UFLY mobile app. The app will be updated within 60 days to reflect these airspace restrictions. Additional information, including frequently asked questions, is available on the FAA’s UAS website.
Section 2209 of the FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016 also directs the Secretary of Transportation to establish a process to accept petitions to prohibit or restrict UAS operations over critical infrastructure and other facilities. The Department of Transportation and the FAA are currently evaluating options to implement such a process.
The FAA is considering additional requests from federal security and intelligence agencies for restrictions using the FAA’s § 99.7 authority as they are received.