Drone operators v. public safety: a warning from the FAA
If you’re hoping to use your drone to capture images of Hurricane Michael and its effects, better think twice. Drone owners and operators whose vehicles interfere with emergency response areas in hurricane-hit areas could get hit themselves – with a $20,000 fine.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says that 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. Flying a drone without authorization in or near the disaster area may unintentionally disrupt rescue operations and violate federal, state, or local laws and ordinances, even if a Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) is not in place.
“Allow first responders to save lives and property without interference,” says the FAA.
If you want to help...
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.
If drone operators need to fly in controlled airspace or a disaster TFR to support the response and recovery, operators must contact the FAA’s System Operations Support Center (SOSC) by emailing 9-ATOR-HQ-SOSC@faa.gov the information they need to authorize access to the airspace. Coordination with the SOSC may also include a requirement that a drone operator obtain support from the appropriate incident commander.
Here’s the information the FAA may require:
- the unmanned aircraft type
- a PDF copy of a current FAA COA
- the pilot’s Part 107 certificate number
- details about the proposed flight (date, time, location, altitude, direction and distance to the nearest airport, and latitude/longitude)
- nature of the event (fire, law enforcement, local/national disaster, missing person) and the pilot’s qualification information.