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News and Updates – FAA Establishes Restrictions on Drone Operations over DOJ and DOD Facilities

At the request of its federal security partners, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is using its existing authority under Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) 99.7 Special Security Instructions to address concerns about drone operations over national security sensitive facilities by establishing temporary unmanned aircraft system (UAS) specific flight restrictions.

Information on the FAA Notice to Airmen (NOTAM), which defines these restrictions, and all of the currently covered locations, can be found at the UAS Data Display System, which provides an interactive map, downloadable geospatial data, and other important details. A link to these restrictions is also included in the FAAs B4UFLY mobile app.

Additional, broader information regarding flying drones in the National Airspace System, including frequently asked questions, is available on the FAAs UAS website.

In cooperation with Department of Justice (DOJ) and Department of Defense (DOD), the FAA is establishing additional restrictions on drone flights up to 400 feet within the lateral boundaries of the following Federal facilities:

  • Federal Correctional Institution Allenwood Medium in Allenwood, PA
  • Federal Correctional Institution Beaumont Medium in Beaumont, TX
  • Federal Correctional Institution Butner Medium I in Butner, NC
  • Federal Correctional Institution Butner Medium II in Butner, NC
  • Federal Correctional Institution Coleman Medium near Sumterville, FL
  • Federal Correctional Institution Florence in Florence, CO
  • Federal Correctional Institution Forrest City Medium in Forrest City, AR
  • Federal Correctional Institution Hazelton near Bruceton Mills, WV
  • Federal Correctional Institution Lompoc in Lompoc, CA
  • Federal Correctional Institution Oakdale I in Oakdale, LA
  • Federal Correctional Institution Oakdale II in Oakdale, LA
  • Federal Correctional Institution Petersburg near Hopewell, VA
  • Federal Correctional Institution Pollock in Pollock, LA
  • Federal Correctional Institution Terre Haute in Terre Haute, IN
  • Federal Correctional Institution Tucson in Tucson, AZ
  • Federal Correctional Institution Victorville Medium I in Victorville, CA
  • Federal Correctional Institution Victorville Medium II in Victorville, CA
  • Federal Correctional Institution Yazoo City Medium in Yazoo City, MS
  • Federal Detention Center Honolulu in Honolulu, HI
  • Federal Detention Center Houston in Houston, TX
  • Federal Detention Center Miami in Miami, FL
  • Federal Detention Center Philadelphia in Philadelphia, PA
  • Federal Detention Center SeaTac near Seattle, WA
  • Federal Medical Center Carswell near Fort Worth, TX
  • Federal Medical Center Fort Worth in Fort Worth, TX
  • Federal Medical Center Rochester in Rochester, MN
  • Metropolitan Correctional Center Chicago in Chicago, IL
  • Metropolitan Correctional Center New York in New York City, NY
  • Metropolitan Correctional Center San Diego in San Diego, CA
  • Medical Center for Federal Prisoners Springfield in Springfield, MO
  • Metropolitan Detention Center Brooklyn in Brooklyn, NY
  • Metropolitan Detention Center Guaynabo in Guaynabo, PR
  • Metropolitan Detention Center Los Angeles in Los Angeles, CA
  • Fort Detrick in Frederick, MD
  • Fort Gordon near Augusta, GA
  • Fort Lee near Richmond, VA
  • Holston Army Ammunition Plant near Kingsport, TN
  • McAlester Army Ammunition Plant in McAlester, OK
  • Radford Army Ammunition Plant in Radford, VA
  • Joint Base McGuire near Trenton, NJ
  • Pearl Harbor Naval Defense Sea Area in Honolulu, HI

These changes, which have been highlighted by FAA NOTAM FDC [9/2586], are pending until they become effective on February 26. Note that there are only a few exceptions that permit drone flights within these restrictions, and they must be coordinated with the individual facility and/or the FAA.

Operators who violate the flight restrictions may be subject to enforcement action, including potential civil penalties and criminal charges.

The FAA is continuing to consider additional requests by eligible federal security agencies for UAS specific flight restrictions using the Agencys 99.7 authority as they are received. Additional changes to these restrictions will be announced by the FAA as appropriate.

News and Updates – FAA Modifies LAANC Service Provider Request

WASHINGTON The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has modified its process to request new service suppliers for the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC pronounced LANCE).

The FAA began considering applicants beyond the current 14 suppliers on January 7. The initial application period has now been extended to increase participation, and the agency has revised all key dates this year for the application process. Also, there will now be only one application period in 2019 instead of two.

A major reason for the changes is the 2018 FAA Reauthorization Act, under which the Agency is tasked with expanding the LAANC capability. Existing and potential unmanned aircraft system service suppliers are expected to broaden the scope of their applications to include these changes, so the entire selection process will take 10 months, not five as previously announced.

The new schedule is:

  • January 7 March 18
    Application period
  • March 19 May 26
    FAA submission review
  • May 27 August 16
    Technical interviews
  • August 17 October 21
    Formal selection and startup

Interested parties should reviewinformation on the application process.

LAANC provides near real-time processing of airspace authorization and notification requests for Part 107 drone operators nationwide. The system is designed to automatically approve most requests to operate in specific areas of controlled airspace below designated altitudes.

Through approved LAANC UAS Service Suppliers, drone operators can interact with industry developed applications and obtain near real-time authorization from the FAA. Requests are checked against multiple airspace data sources in the FAA UAS Data Exchange such as temporary flight restrictions, NOTAMS and the UAS Facility Maps. If approved, pilots receive their authorization in near-real time.

News and Updates – FAA Makes Major Drone ID Marking Change

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has posted a rule in the Federal Register requiring small drone owners to display the FAA-issued registration number on an outside surface of the aircraft. Owners and operators may no longer place or write registration numbers in an interior compartment. The rule is effective on February 25. The markings must be in place for any flight after that date.

When the FAA first required registration of small drones in 2015, the agency mandated that the registration marking be readily accessible and maintained in readable condition. The rule granted some flexibility by permitting the marking to be placed in an enclosed compartment, such as a battery case, if it could be accessed without the use of tools.

Subsequently, law enforcement officials and the FAAs interagency security partners have expressed concerns about the risk a concealed explosive device might pose to first responders upon opening a compartment to find a drones registration number. The FAA believes this action will enhance safety and security by allowing a person to view the unique identifier directly without handling the drone.

This interim final rule does not change the original acceptable methods of external marking, nor does it specify a particular external surface on which the registration number must be placed. The requirement is that it can be seen upon visual inspection of the aircrafts exterior.

The FAA has issued this requirement as an Interim Final Rulea rule that takes effect while also inviting public comment. The FAA issues interim final rules when delaying implementation of the rule would be impractical, unnecessary, or contrary to the public interest. In this case, the agency has determined the importance of mitigating the risk to first responders outweighs the minimal inconvenience this change may impose on small drone owners, and justifies implementation without a prior public comment period.

The FAA will consider comments from the public on this Interim Final Rule, and will then review any submissions to determine if the provisions of the ultimate Final Rule should be changed. The 30-day comment period will end on March 15, 2019. To submit comments, go to http://www.regulations.gov and search for RIN 2120-AL32.

As Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao promised last month, today the FAA also posted proposed new rules to let drones fly routinely at night and over people, and to further integrate them safely into the nations airspace. The comment period for these proposals begins tomorrow and will end April 15.

News and Updates – FAA Statement on Continuing Operations of the FAA During a Lapse in Appropriations

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is the primary agency responsible for the safe and efficient use of the national airspace. In carrying out its vital aviation safety mission, the FAA maintains a complex, interrelated system of oversight, approvals, reviews, and renewals that allow an integrated network of regulated individuals, air carriers, and others to continue safe operations in the airspace.

It is appropriate and lawful for the FAA to perform many of these safety-related functions notwithstanding a lapse in appropriations, because their continuation is justified to maintain the safety of life and protection of property, as provided by the Anti-Deficiency Act (ADA), 31 U.S.C. 1342. For example, during lapses in appropriations, the FAA has always maintained its air traffic control functions, and when a lapse extends beyond a few days, the FAAs risk-based safety oversight of the aviation industry requires the resumption of additional functions.

During an extended lapse, the FAA continually reevaluates the scope of functions that are designated as excepted and appropriate to be maintained during the lapse for the protection of life and property. In the midst of the recently concluded lapse, on January14, 2019, the FAA posted an amended shutdown plan to add the following four categories of functions to those previously designated as excepted:

  • Airmen medical certifications.
  • Certain evaluations, audits, inspections, and other safety certification activities, including the issuance of airworthiness certificates required for the delivery of new and modified airplanes and airplane components and certifications for the operation of new or modified aircraft.
  • Processing and approval of applications for commercial space launch and reentry licenses, in addition to the safety oversight of previously licensed commercial space launches.
  • Processing and approval of requests for waivers for commercial use of unmanned aircraft systems.

Following amendment of the shutdown plan, the FAA began to recall furloughed employees through a series of recalls, as necessary to carry out these additional excepted functions.

The January 14 amendments to the FAAs shutdown plan were reviewed and approved within the Executive Branch in accordance with established policies that apply during lapses in appropriations. The FAAs actions in carrying out the amended plan were fully consistent with the longstanding guidance of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) of the U.S. Department of Justice. See OMB Mem. M-18-05, Planning for Agency Operations during a Potential Lapse in Appropriations (Jan.19, 2018); Government Operations in the Event of a Lapse in Appropriations, Supp. Op. O.L.C. (Aug.16, 1995), https://www.justice.gov/opinion/file/ 844116/download (1995 OLC Opinion). They were supported by a straightforward extension of OLCs past guidance concerning the FAAs safety-related responsibilities over the operation of the national airspace.

The 1995 OLC Opinion recognized that it is appropriate for the FAA to continue its air traffic control functions during a lapse under the ADAs exception for activities needed to protect the safety of life and property. See id. at 5. OLC observed that the practice of past administrations has been to assume the continued operation of the private economy [during the lapse], and so air traffic controllers, meat inspectors, and other similarly situated personnel have been considered to be within the emergency exception of section 1342. Id.

Todays private economy includes not only the operation of existing airplanes in the air traffic control system, but also the bringing of new aircraft into service, the updating of aviation equipment, the medical certification of airmen, the safe operation of unmanned aircraft systems, and the safe conduct of commercial space launches and reentries. Under OLCs guidance, these activities are assumed to continue during the lapse, and the FAAs supervision is necessary to ensure that they occur in a way that will not cause an imminent threat to human life.

There is no doubt that the operation of todays national airspace in the U.S., as compared to the system of even the relatively recent past, is more varied and challenging. The increasing use of unmanned aircraft systems and the increasing number of commercial space launches, for example, pose new complexities for the safe and efficient use of airspace. The scope of excepted activities required to ensure the continued safety of life and property in civil aviation in 2019 necessarily must cover the current national airspace system, not the system of the past. Furthermore, the length of the recent lapse in appropriations required the FAA to operate in an environment not experienced in prior lapsesone in which contingencies that were not expected at the outset of the lapse became increasingly likely as the lapse in appropriations continued.

Reflecting these differences, the FAAs shutdown planning has evolved over time. Through 2009, the FAA designated its entire aviation inspection workforce as excepted and furloughed only a few of those inspectors. During the lapse in appropriations that occurred in 2013, on the other hand, the FAA initially furloughed a much greater portion of its aviation safety workforce, but eventually, as the lapse continued, the FAA recalled a large number of these employees. Most of the recalls of safety inspectors and other aviation safety employees conducted by the FAA in furtherance of the January 14 amendments were consistent with the recalls eventually made in 2013. Others reflected a new recognition that the national airspace of today is more complex than it once was.

These expanded recalls are to be expected, based on the FAAs operational experience. The longer a lapse in appropriations continues, the morenot the fewerFAA safety personnel are needed to maintain the safe operation of the national airspace. The longer the lapse, the greater the need for the FAA to manage risk by providing inspection, certification, and other services to aircraft, airmen, and air carriers. As the national airspace expands and evolves to encompass new aircraft, commercial space operations, and unmanned aircraft systems, the FAAs operations must keep pace to ensure the continued safety of the system as a whole, and not just the system as it once existed.

With foresight and proper planning, the FAA took the right steps in full compliance with the law to ensure that the necessary personnel were on the job during the lapse to maintain the safe operation of Americas vital national airspace.