FAA Bans All Drone Operations Over Large Swaths of U.S. Airspace

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2015-12-28 Print this article Print
Drone Restrictions

Note that the FAA rules do allow operators to apply for a waiver, but a waiver is granted for specific operations in specific areas.

This means that if you're using a drone to inspect cell towers, for example, you would need a waiver for each cell tower and each time you wanted to inspect it. These rules apply to any UAS that weighs less than 55 pounds. Larger devices have a similar set of restrictions.

By now you may recall that the FAA has just created an entire UAS registration system that's supposed to allow drone flights. You'd be right, but those rules aren't as unlimited as they might seem at first. While you can operate a commercial drone if the FAA allows it, that ability goes away any time you're in an area with a TFR, whether it's around Washington or somewhere else, such as Honolulu, where UAS devices are grounded during a TFR established, for example, while the president is on vacation there.

Of course, not all TFRs are set up because the president is traveling by air. Some go into effect because of disasters such as wildfires in California. Others are in place only for the duration of a football game or a concert.

Others exist because Disney or other theme park operators requested them. There are lots of reasons, and if you're operating a drone (or contracting with a drone operator) you need to be on top of those restrictions constantly.

Those limitations and restrictions apply to any drone or other UAS you might be thinking about operating. This includes the drone you got for Christmas even if it's smaller than the 8.8 ounces required for registration. And it applies regardless of whether it's being used for fun or for commercial reasons.

If you think you're going to need to use some kind of UAS for your business, then you would be wise to check for TFRs daily at the Web link above and be prepared to be flexible. Most TFRs really are temporary, and just because they're in place one day, doesn't mean they're going to be in place the next.

You also need to be aware that the president is only one of many prominent people who qualify for their very own flight restrictions. When the pope came to town, he got his own TFR, as do other foreign heads of state when visiting the U.S. But so does the Super Bowl and the World Series. Any of these can cancel the drone flight you need to perform for your business. It's UAS operators' responsibility to be aware of any applicable restrictions.



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