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February 9, 2016
FAA Updates DC-Area Unmanned Aircraft Procedures

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is updating its conditions today for flying unmanned aircraft in the area between 15 and 30 miles from Washington, D.C. to clarify differences for various types of unmanned aircraft. As of 12:01 a.m. EST, Wednesday, February 10, the operating procedures will allow model aircraft, commercial and public users to operate in the outer ring of the Special Flight Rules Area (SFRA) under specific conditions.

The SFRA rule still prohibits unmanned aircraft operations within 15 miles of Washington, D.C. in the Flight Restricted Zone without specific FAA authorization.

Under the new procedures, hobbyists and recreational unmanned aircraft operators can fly aircraft that weigh less than 55 lbs. (including any attachments such as a camera) in the area between 15 and 30 miles of Washington, D.C. if the aircraft are registered and marked, and they follow specific operating conditions. The operating conditions require them to fly 400 feet or lower above the ground, stay in the operator’s line of sight, only fly in clear conditions, and avoid other aircraft.

If hobbyists intend to operate within five miles of an airport or heliport, the new procedures also require them to notify the airport, heliport and air traffic control tower, if there is one, before operating.

Commercial and other non-model aircraft operators must register and mark their unmanned aircraft, must have an exemption and comply with it, and must notify the FAA an hour before operating to provide specific flight information.

Public operators, such as federal, state or local governments, must also register and mark their aircraft, must have the appropriate FAA authorization to operate, and must complete the same one-hour notification before operating.

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