Reported by the AP, another unmanned aircraft system (“UAS”) was recently spotted in the vicinity of the White House, prompting a security lock down. This is the first publicly reported UAS incident by the White House since a federal worker crashed his UAS on the White House grounds in January.
Since 2010, the FAA has prohibited all UAS operations – commercial or recreational – in Washington, DC airspace. As explained in the flight restrictions, the FAA may take administrative action for violations, including imposing civil penalties or the suspension and revocation of FAA certificates, and the U.S. Government may pursue criminal charges or use deadly force against the airborne aircraft if it is determined that the aircraft poses an imminent security threat. After the January White House incident, the FAA has also taken efforts to educate the public, launching a “No Drone Zone” public outreach campaign to reinforce the message that Washington, DC and the area within a 15-mile radius of Ronald-Reagan Washington National Airport are off limits to UAS.
This incident is a reminder to all UAS operators, including the growing number of commercial operators using UAS under Section 333 exemptions, that UAS are subject to FAA airspace restrictions. UAS operators should obtain FAA approval before flying in any restricted or controlled airspace. And, if not already addressed in operations manuals, commercial operators may consider adopting supplemental procedures to ensure that the UAS operations do not violate airspace restrictions.