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FAA bars drones near airports

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has published a Federal Register notice on the safety of model airplanes and small drones that includes a new rule making it illegal to fly the vehicles within five miles of an airport.

The notice, an interpretation of the statutory special rules for model aircraft in the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, comes after recent incidents involving “the reckless use of unmanned model aircraft near airports and involving large crowds of people.” The agency is issuing the notice to provide guidance on flying safely in accordance with the Act and to answer many of the questions it has received regarding the scope and application of the rules.

“We want people who fly model aircraft for recreation to enjoy their hobby -- but to enjoy it safely,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “At DOT, we often say that safety is a shared responsibility, so to help, we are providing additional information today to make sure model aircraft operators know exactly what’s expected of them.”

The notice states that model aircraft and small drones must not interfere with manned aircraft, must be flown within sight of the operator, and can only be operated for hobby or recreational purposes. The rule appears to halt, for now, plans by companies including Amazon to use drones for deliveries.

To operate an unmanned aerial vehicle within five miles of an airport, people will need to obtain permission from the airport operator and air traffic control tower.

“We have a mandate to protect the American people in the air and on the ground, and the public expects us to carry out that mission,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta.

The notice mentions the FAA will take enforcement action against model aircraft operators who operate their aircraft in a dangerous manner. The enforcement authority is designed to protect users of the airspace as well as people and property on the ground. The FAA is also developing a plan to work with the law enforcement community to help them understand the new rules.

The public can contact the FAA regarding unmanned aircraft concerns on the FAA’s safety hotline website, or they can call 1-866-835-5322, option four. Though the new interpretation is effective immediately, the FAA will accept comments on the notice until July 18.


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