FAA Restricts Drone Operations over Certain Department of Energy Sites

On December 18th the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced that it would restrict unauthorized UAV operations over seven Department of Energy (DOE) facilities.

According to the FAA official press release, the request for restriction came directly from U.S. national security and law enforcement agencies who asked the FAA to exercise its existing authority under Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations § 99.7 “Special Security Instructions”. Following the directive, the FAA and DOE have agreed to restrict drone flights up to 400 feet within the lateral boundaries 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 

These UAS National Security restrictions are pending until they become effective on December 29, 2017. 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.The airspace restrictions are shown in an FAA Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) – see complete text at the bottom of this article – and the details about where drone flights are restricted are available at http://uas-faa.opendata.arcgis.com/

We caution our readers that these websites are not very friendly and you will have to know exactly what you are looking for in order to extract any useful information from them.

To ensure the public is aware of these restricted locations, the FAA has created an interactive map online. The link to these restrictions is also included in the FAA’s B4UFLY mobile app. The app will be updated within 60 days to reflect these airspace restrictions. Operators who violate the airspace restrictions may be subject to enforcement action, including potential civil penalties and criminal charges. Additional information, including a list of FAQ’s, is available on the FAA’s website.

This is the first time the agency has placed specific airspace restrictions for UAVs over DOE sites. The FAA has placed similar airspace restrictions over military bases which are currently in place, as well as some issued more recently for certain historic landmarks and large dams.

The FAA is considering additional requests from other federal security agencies for restrictions under FAA’s § 99.7 authority to support national security and defense, as they are received.

The text of the NOTAM is as follows:

FDC 7/6429 FDC SECURITY SPECIAL SECURITY INSTRUCTIONS FOR UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEM (UAS) OPERATIONS FOR MULTIPLE LOCATIONS NATIONWIDE. THIS NOTAM SUPPLEMENTS THE UAS-SPECIFIC SPECIAL SECURITY INSTRUCTIONS DEFINED BY FDC 7/7282 AND IMPLEMENTED PURSUANT 14 C.F.R. 99.7 AND HAVE BEEN APPLIED TO AIRSPACE OVER ADDITIONAL NATIONAL SECURITY SENSITIVE FACILITIES. THE UPDATED LIST OF AFFECTED AIRSPACE AND ASSOCIATED PROTECTED LOCATIONS, AND OTHER IMPORTANT INFORMATION ARE PROVIDED AT THE FOLLOWING FAA WEBSITE: HTTP://UAS.FAA.OPENDATA.ARCGIS.COM. SEE FDC 7/7282 FOR COMPLETE INFORMATION ON THESE SPECIAL SECURITY INSTRUCTIONS. 1712290001-1902012359

We encourage everyone planning a flight near a power generating or nuclear plant to review the NOTAM carefully and look for detailed information on the exact coordinates using the FAA’s GIS website listed above.

 

 

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About the Author

Juan received a degree in Geodesy and a master in digital photogrammetry from Universidad Central de Venezuela and a MBA in international Finance from Florida International University. He has over 750 hours of experience in photogrammetry navigation and camera operation in aircraft as varied as WWII B-25, Cessna 310, Lear Jet 25C and Piper Aztec. Juan holds a Commercial, Multi-engine Pilot certificate. Juan has been selling mapping UAV’s in Latin America for four years and is a frequent guest speaker in events where the safety of flying UAV’s and the fact that unmanned and manned aircraft inevitably will share the same airspace, is a relevant topic. He is the CEO of Juan B Plaza Consulting, a services’ firm specializing in UAV and general aviation issues.

    • Juan Plaza

      A waiver is always a possibility but keep in mind that this restriction is just 400 ft from the lateral boundaries of the seven mentioned sites, so the chances of having a paid engagement at such short distance from a power generating station is very slim.
      If you have such an engagement and need a waiver, don’t hesitate to contact the FAA and ask for the waiver, but be ready to wait (no pun intended) for a few weeks.
      Hope this helps.

      Reply
  1. Juan Plaza

    Kevin, you are most welcome. We are constantly monitoring the FAA website and every other associated site for any news that might affect commercial operations throughout the country.

    Reply
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