DC-Area Procedures

The FAA today updated the procedures for sUAV flying near DC. The procedures are set forth in Notices to Airmen (NOTAM). This is important, because it shows where the FAA is heading with regulations.  The operating procedures will allow model aircraft (hobby and recreational users), commercial and public users to operate in an outer ring now called the Special Flight Rules Area (SFRA).  The area inside the donut hole is now a Flight Restricted Zone (FRZ) as explain in NOTAM 2/2060.  

NOTAM 6/2062 designates the DC SFRA (NOTAM 2/2060 does the same for the DC FRZ) donut ring a National Defense Airspace.  No kidding folks, that is serious.  Pilots who fail to heed the NOTAMs may be INTERCEPTED, AND/OR DETAINED AND INTERVIEWED BY FEDERAL, STATE, OR LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT, OR OTHER GOVERNMENT PERSONNEL; may FACE FAA ADMINISTRATIVE ENFORCEMENT ACTION, INCLUDING IMPOSING CIVIL PENALTIES AND THE SUSPENSION OR REVOCATION OF AIRMEN CERTIFICATES; and may be SUBJECT TO CRIMINAL PENALTIES UNDER 49 USC SECTION 46307.  If that isnt enough, the U.S. GOVERNMENT MAY USE DEADLY FORCE AGAINST A FLIGHT OPERATING IN THE DC SFRA, or the DC FRZ, IF IT IS DETERMINED THAT THE AIRCRAFT POSES AN IMMINENT SECURITY THREAT.  There are lots of other requirements, so please read the whole thing if you are even thinking of flying within 100 miles of DC.  There are also Special Security Instructions for operations in the Leesburg Maneuvering Area (LMA) set forth in NOTAM 6/2085.

In other words, don’t try to fly a drone onto the White House lawn, and please don’t eat the daisies.

Pay close attention to NOTAM 2/2069 because the special conditions for sUAV operation are in that one, and this is where regulations are heading.

Operators must be registered and the sUAV must be marked, ceiling is 400 feet AGL, keep the sUAV in the operator's line of sight, only fly in clear conditions, no night flights, and avoid other aircraft.  

If hobbyists intend to operate within five miles of an airport or heliport, the new procedures also require them to notify the airport, heliport and air traffic control tower, if there is one, before operating.

Commercial operators must register and mark their unmanned aircraft, must have a Section 333 exemption, and (this is new) must notify the FAA an hour before operating to provide specific flight information.  Contact information is in NOTAM 2/2069.

`© Robert Rose 2015