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The Federal Aviation Administration’s (“FAA’s”) authority to institute airspace restrictions derives from 14 CFR § 99.7, “Special Security Instructions,” which is intended to address national security concerns from the Department of Defense and U.S. Federal security and intelligence agencies. 

Effective April 14, 2017, the FAA designated drone-restricted flight areas around 133 military installations.[1] This was the first time that the FAA had instituted airspace restrictions that specifically applied only to drones.  The restrictions limit drone flights up to 400 feet within the lateral boundaries of these 133 facilities.  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. 

Effective October 5, 2017, at the request of U.S. national security and law enforcement agencies, the FAA and the Department of Interior restricts drone flights up to 400 feet within the lateral boundaries of these DOI sites:

●          Statue of Liberty National Monument, New York, NY

●          Boston National Historical Park (U.S.S. Constitution), Boston, MA

●          Independence National Historical Park, Philadelphia, PA

●          Folsom Dam, Folsom, CA

●          Glen Canyon Dam, Lake Powell, AZ

●          Grand Coulee Dam, Grand Coulee, WA

●          Hoover Dam, Boulder City, NV

●          Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, St. Louis, MO

●          Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Keystone, SD

●          Shasta Dam, Shasta Lake, CA[2]

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.  This was the first time the FAA placed airspace restrictions for drones over DOI landmarks.

Effective December 29, 2017, the FAA and Department of Energy restrict drone flights up to 400 feet within the lateral boundary of these sites:

●          Hanford Site, Franklin County, WA

●          Pantex Site, Panhandle, TX

●          Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, NM

●          Idaho National Laboratory, Idaho Falls, ID

●          Savannah River National Laboratory, Aiken, SC

●          Y-12 National Security Site, Oak Ridge, TN

●          Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN[3]

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.  This was the first time the FAA placed specific airspace restrictions for drones over DOE sites.

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 drone (or UAS) operations over critical infrastructure and other facilities.  The Department of Transportation and the FAA are currently evaluating options to implement such a process.

To ensure public awareness of these restricted locations, the FAA has created an interactive map online at http://uas-faa.opendata.arcgis.com/.  The link to these restrictions is also included in the FAA’s B4UFLY mobile app.  The app is updated within 60 days to reflect any new airspace restrictions.  Additional information is available on the FAA’s UAS website. 

[1] Fed. Aviation Admin., FAA Restricts Drone Operations Over DOE Facilities, www.faa.gov/news/updates/?newsid=89365.

[2] Fed. Aviation Admin., FAA Restricts Drone Operations Over Certain Military Bases, www.faa.gov/news/updates/?newsId=87865.

[3] Fed. Aviation Admin., FAA Restricts Drones over Statue of Liberty, Other Landmarks, www.faa.gov/news/updates/?newsId=88811.

Ryan K. Hilton

Ryan K. Hilton is a partner at Butler Weihmuller Katz Craig LLP in Tampa, Florida.  Ryan practices in our Aviation, Extra-Contractual, and Third-Party Coverage departments.

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