A rare bit of good news for drone hobbyists: the Federal Aviation Administration shrunk its 30-mile “No Drone Zone” back to normal this week, allowing more than a dozen local drone clubs to open for the first time since December.
Back in December, the FAA said its longtime restricted flight radius — established after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks — had doubled from 15 miles to 30 miles around Reagan National Airport, effectively shutting down dozens of local drone clubs. The new rules left model aircraft grounded from Northern Virginia to nearly Baltimore.
The restrictions impacted 14 member clubs of The Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA), which promotes responsible flying, but was told by the FAA in December its clubs would have to cease and desist.
Drone clubs said they expected to hash out a new agreement as soon as mid-January, and by Tuesday it appears to have been reached. Under the new rules, model aircraft weighing under 55 pounds can fly in the area between 15 and 30 miles of National if they are marked and registered and fly 400 feet or lower. If operators plan on flying within five miles of an airport or heliport, they must notify the facility or air traffic control tower before taking to the skies.
“We are pleased that after weeks of working closely with the AMA and our local chartered clubs, the FAA today updated the conditions for flying unmanned aircraft in the Special Flight Rules Area surrounding the DC metropolitan area,” said Dave Mathewson, executive director of the Academy of Model Aeronautics, in a statement. “We want to thank [FAA Administrator Michael P. Huerta] and the FAA for working closely with us so that our 14 charted clubs in the area can now return to safe operations starting on February 10.”
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