FAA Restricts Drone Flights Over Military Bases

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The Federal Aviation Administration restricted the flight of drones over 133 military bases Thursday.

This rule is the first time that the FAA has issued airspace restrictions over drones. The FAA has released guidances that discourage drone pilots from flying over airports or out of range of their lines of sight, but this ruling is based on national security interests from the Department of Defense and intelligence agencies.

The rule, which goes into effect on Friday, restricts flights up to 400 feet within the lateral boundaries of the 133 facilities. In order to obtain an exception to the rule, drone pilots must coordinate with the FAA or with the military base. People who violate the flight restriction could receive criminal charges.

Officials predict the number of hobbyist drones is going to more than triple, from 1.1 million now to 3.5 million by 2021. Commercial drones are expected to increase to 442,000 by 2021.

The FAA created an interactive map that shows the areas in which a flight restriction is in place. For example, in the Washington, D.C. area, drones are prohibited from flying over Marine Corps Base in Quantico, Va., and the Naval Air Systems Command in St. Mary’s County, Md.

The FAA is also considering other proposals to restrict the flight of unmanned aircraft systems due to national security reasons.

FAA officials are still debating the safety of drones, including the rules that are needed to maintain the cybersecurity of unmanned aircraft. In order to achieve cybersecurity certification for a drone from the FAA, the company has to describe the system, describe the potential cyber threats, and describe how the company plans to mitigate the risks.

“It doesn’t have to be a long list of onerous requirements to meet,” said Wes Ryan, manager of programs and procedures of the FAA’s Small Airplane Directorate, at the FAA’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Symposium in March. “All it is is really applying the right amount of rigor for the risk that the aircraft imposes.”

Despite this, the average drone has four areas that need to be secure in order to fly safely: the air traffic control communications system, the drone, the control and command link, and the ground station. The FAA is taking the extra step to prevent the flight of unmanned aircraft over military bases to ensure security.

“Function always beats security,” said Greg Rice, senior engineering manager for Cyber Systems at Rockwell Collins. “It’s always an afterthought.”

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