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2016-01-04
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Huge New No Fly Zone Over DC

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The FAA has published updated guidance for the new year that explicitly bans drones in a 30 mile radius surrounding Reagan National Airport (DC). This increased swath spans nearly 3000 square miles and increases the restricted airspace by 400%. At first, many people may assume this simply means the rising growth of quadcopter drones but the flight ban for the SFRA (Special Flight Rules Area) includes regular model airplanes (affecting at least 36 clubs) that have been operating for decades. Notifications were sent out to clubs such as the Academy of Model Aeronautics advising them to inform members the flight bans included their aircraft. According to an FAA spokesman to eWeek:

Unmanned aircraft, including model aircraft, are ‘aircraft’ and are subject to FAA rules. No aircraft is allowed to fly inside the Special Flight Rules Area unless it complies with the published airspace security requirements. All aircraft flying in the Washington, D.C., SFRA are required to squawk a discrete beacon code and maintain continuous radio communications with air traffic controllers. Aircraft that cannot meet these requirements are prohibited from operating within the SFRA without specific authorization.

Additionally, the FAA also has new regulations finally exist mandating drone registration for all aircraft weighing between 0.55 pounds and 55 pounds anywhere in the United States. Operators flying prior to the 21 December date hack are required to retroactively register their drones (FAA registration site) whereas all new operators must register prior to taking possession. A tidbit of information that has largely gone unnoticed is the FAA's drone registry is considered public information and currently their policies are making names and addresses of drone registrants completely available to the public. Fines for violating the new drone laws can reach upwards of $250,000 and three years in jail.



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