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As drones start flooding the skies and regulations over drone use proliferate, the Federal Aviation Administration is constantly updating its guidance for both hobby and commercial drones. And while the latest rule might seem so obvious as to not need a federal administrative order, the FAA and Department of Defense are warning drone pilots to avoid flying over U.S. military bases, lest they face fines or jail time.
Here are more details on the order.
The FAA says it is addressing "national security concerns about unauthorized drone operations over 133 military facilities" with the latest order. Noting that these facilities are "vital to the nation's security," the FAA and DOD will "restrict drone flights up to 400 feet within the lateral boundaries of these 133 facilities" beginning April 14.
While the FAA may allow some exceptions to the no-fly rule, drone operators violating the new restriction are subject to civil penalties and criminal charges, including up to a year in prison.
How do you know where to not fly? The FAA has posted a comprehensive and interactive map listing all national security unmanned aircraft system (UAS) flight restrictions, as well as the agency's UAS data. The FAA also has a B4UFLY mobile app that will reflect the new flight restrictions.
As Ars Technica points out, the new rules are in response to a burgeoning drone market, both for hobbyist and commercial enterprises. The number of hobbyist drones is expected to grow from 1.1 million now to 3.5 million by 2021, while the number of commercial drones is expected to increase tenfold, from 42,000 to 442,000 over the same span. You would think most drone operators wouldn't need to be told to avoid U.S. military installations, but with the new, codified order, the FAA is ensuring all UAS pilots have proper and accurate notice.