For the first time, the FAA will restrict UAS flights near seven US Department of Energy (DOE) facilities. These restrictions are being put into place "to address concerns about unauthorized drone operations" over the seven facilities. The FAA had previously placed similar restrictions on UAS flights near military bases and ten Department of Interior landmarks.

At the request of US national security and law enforcement agencies, the FAA and DOE have agreed to restrict drone flights within 400 feet of the lateral boundaries of the following sites:

  • Hanford Site; Franklin County, Washington
  • Pantex Site; Panhandle, Texas
  • Los Alamos National Laboratory; Los Alamos, New Mexico
  • Idaho National Laboratory; Idaho Falls, Idaho
  • Savannah River National Laboratory; Aiken, South Carolina
  • Y-12 National Security Site; Oak Ridge, Tennessee
  • Oak Ridge National Laboratory; Oak Ridge, Tennessee

The airspace restrictions are effective December 29, 2017. Operators who violate these restrictions may be subject to enforcement action, including potential civil penalties and criminal charges. There are a few exceptions that permit UAS flights within these airspace restrictions, and they must be coordinated with the individual facility and/or the FAA.

To ensure that the public is aware of these new restricted locations, the FAA has created an interactive online map, and a link to these restrictions will be included in the FAA's B4UFLY mobile app.

These new restrictions are significant because this is the first time FAA has used its authority under 14 CFR § 99.7 to restrict UAS flights over DOE facilities. Further, in its announcement of the new restrictions, the FAA noted that "it is considering additional requests for federal agencies for restrictions using the FAA's § 99.7 authority as they are received," suggesting that the FAA may add to the list of UAS no-fly zones.

Find out more about these restrictions by contacting either of the authors.