FAA Restricts Drone Operations Over 7 Department of Energy Facilities

By Los Alamos National Laboratory [Public domain]

The FAA has announced that it will restrict drone flight over 7 Department of Energy (DOE) facilities, effective December 29, 2017.

The move comes after recent restrictions of drone flights over some military bases Department of the Interior (DOI) infrastructure sites.  The FAA says that they are acting “at the request of U.S. national security and law enforcement agencies…to address concerns about unauthorized drone operations” over the DOE facilities.
Drone flight will be restricted “up to 400 feet within the lateral boundaries” of the following 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

Details can be found on the FAA’s UAS Data Delivery System and in an FAA Notice to Airmen (NOTAM.)

The FAA is making every effort to ensure that drone operators are aware of the restrictions.  In addition to an interactive map, they will be updating the B4UFLY mobile app and the FAA’s FAQ section.  However, despite these efforts, getting the message out about new restrictions to new drone operators may present a challenge.  As the recent NTSB report about the collision between an Army Black Hawk helicopter and a consumer drone revealed, many drone operators are simply not aware of the rules of flight.

The FAA warns that the new restrictions will be enforced.  “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,” says the announcement.  “…Operators who violate the airspace restrictions may be subject to enforcement action, including potential civil penalties and criminal charges.”

While this is the first restriction over DOE sites, “the FAA is considering additional requests from other federal security agencies for restrictions using the FAA’s § 99.7 authority to support national security and defense, as they are received,” says the agency.

Miriam McNabb is the CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. She writes for DRONELIFE on current news, financial trends, and FAA regulations. 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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