FAA restricts drones over high-priority maritime operations

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At the request of the Department of Defense (DOD) and the United States Coast Guard (USCG), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is using its existing authority under Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations § 99.7 – “Special Security Instructions” – to address concerns about potentially malicious drone operations over certain, high-priority maritime operations.

The FAA, in cooperation with DOD and USCG, is restricting drone flights near U.S. Navy (USN) and USCG vessels operating in the vicinity of Naval Base Kitsap in Washington state and Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in Georgia. Drone operations are required to maintain a distance of at least 3,000 feet laterally and 1,000 feet vertically from these vessels.

These special security instructions, provided in an FAA Notice to Airmen (NOTAM), are effective today. The full text of this NOTAM and additional information on these special security instructions, including a visual depiction and geospatial definition of the relevant airspace.

The FAA also warns drone operators in this NOTAM that these USN and USCG vessels are authorized by law to take protective action against drones perceived to be safety or security threats such as those violating the cited FAA special security instructions. This action could result in interference, disruption, seizure, damage or destruction of these drones. Further, operators who do not comply with the FAA special security instructions also may be subject to enforcement action, including potential civil penalties and criminal charges.

Any operator with an overriding reason of public interest or necessity (e.g., conducting a search and rescue mission) to operate their drone in close proximity to the cited USN and USCG vessels must first coordinate with the USN or USCG point of contact
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In a separate Special Notice Advisory NOTAM, also effective today, the FAA strongly advises drone operators to remain clear of DOD and Department of Energy (DOE) facilities and mobile assets, as well as USCG vessels. This Special Notice applies nationwide and alerts operators who ignore this caution and conduct drone flights perceived to be a safety or security threat to these facilities and mobile assets could face a reaction by security forces that results in the interference, disruption, seizure, damage or destruction of their aircraft.

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