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Drone Industry Urges FAA to Implement Section 2209 Immediately

More than two years ago, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was required to publish a notice that establishes procedures for drone applicants who want to prohibit or restrict the operation of drones in specific areas.   Twelve months after the publication of that notice, the FAA was supposed to publish the final rule that establishes a process to designate airspace for drone operations.  To date, no notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) has been made.

Stakeholders are urging the FAA to provide rules in a public notice as quickly as possible that will regulate the operation of drones in close proximity to a fixed site facility. 

Fixed site facilities include:

  • critical infrastructure, such as energy production, transmission, and distribution facilities and equipment;
  • oil refineries and chemical facilities;
  • amusement parks;
  • any location that warrants such restrictions.

Section 2209 of the FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act requires the FAA to define boundaries for protecting critical infrastructure from unauthorized drones.  Before the FAA can define boundaries, however, it must first define the sites that are prohibited to drones and work with state and local governments to determine which places should be designated as fixed site facilities. 

“Section 2209 is critical to the commercial drone industry, because without a system to define fixed sites at the federal level, states and local governments have stepped in to define their own critical sites as off limits to drones.  Without definition at the federal level, drone operators may not have a central source of information that defines the sites and helps them to respect airspace restrictions.  If sites are not defined at the federal level, drone operators have no efficient way of applying for an exception to the restrictions when required for public safety, emergency, or legitimate commercial applications.”

The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have published letters signed by a list of drone and critical infrastructure stakeholders to the FAA.

In a letter from AUVSI, “We support this rulemaking to protect critical infrastructure facilities from the risk that malicious, reckless, or unknowing UAS operations may pose, and also to ensure that it is the federal government – not state or local governments – that controls the national airspace.  A failure of the FAA to firmly establish that they hold sole authority to regulate the national airspace could have long-reaching consequences.”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce letter states, “A patchwork of state laws is confusing for critical infrastructure stakeholders and the UAS industry.”