Citing close encounters of the drone kind, FAA bans UAVs near airports

An octocopter drone hovers in front of vapor trails left by aircrafts during a demonstration. REUTERS/Srdjan Zivulovic

An octocopter drone hovers in front of vapor trails left by aircrafts during a demonstration. REUTERS/Srdjan Zivulovic

In an updated advisory of restrictions around the use of drones, the Federal Aviation Adminstration says unmanned aerial vehicles may not be flown within 5 miles of any US airport, unless the drone operator has advance permission from the "airport operator and the airport air traffic control

Basing the new limits on the FAA's right to issue "prohibitions on careless or reckless operation" that create "hazard to persons or property,"
property, the agency says air safety would otherwise be at risk.

"We want people who fly model aircraft for recreation to enjoy their hobby – but to enjoy it safely," said U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "We often say that safety is a shared responsibility, so to help, we are providing additional information today to make sure model aircraft operators know exactly what's expected of them."

Here are the new rules, in PDF form.

From the Los Angeles Times:

Brendan Schulman, a New York-based attorney specializing in drone law, said he was troubled by the Federal Aviation Administration's restrictions on model aircraft near airports, which came without public comment.

Previously, pilots of model aircraft or small drones were encouraged to contact the authorities only if they planned to fly within three miles of an airport, Schulman said; now, that contact is mandatory, and the safety bubble has been expanded to five miles.

"That's unprecedented and completely new," Schulman said, adding: "People should be concerned that a significant recreational activity has now been deemed unlawful and subject to penalty in the absence of any public input or comment into what the rules should be."

And from the Washington Post, more on the incidents in May 2014 that may have triggered the abrupt new FAA restrictions:

On the same day last month, airline pilots trying to land at two of the nation's busiest airports got on their radios to report the unnerving sight of small rogue drones buzzing at high altitudes.

In the first incident on May 29, the pilot of a commercial airliner descending toward LaGuardia Airport saw what appeared to be a black drone with a 10-to-15-foot wingspan about 5,500 feet above Lower Manhattan, according to a previously undisclosed report filed with the Federal Aviation Administration.

In the second, two airliners separately approaching Los Angeles International Airport soared past what they described as a drone or remote-controlled aircraft the size of a trash can at an altitude of 6,500 feet, FAA records show.