FAA Rescinds Drone Ban Around DC

Late last year, the FAA expanded a Special Flight Rule Area (SFRA) that applied to Unmanned Aerial Systems, drones, and RC airplanes around Washington DC. This SFRA was created around the year 2000 – for obvious reasons – and applies to more than just quadcopters and airplanes made out of foam. Last December, the FAA expanded the SFRA from 15 nautical around a point located at Reagan National to 30 nautical miles. No remote-controlled aircraft could fly in this SFRA, effectively banning quadcopters and drones for six million people.

Today, the FAA has rescinded that ban bringing the area covered under the Washington DC SFRA to 15 nautical miles around a point inside Reagan National. This area includes The District of Columbia, Bethesda, College Park, Alexandria, and basically everything inside the beltway, plus a mile or two beyond. Things are now back to the way they were are few weeks ago.

The 30-mile SFRA included a number of model flying clubs that were shuttered because of the ban. DCRC is now back up. The Capital Area Soaring Association worked with the FAA and AMA to allow club members to fly.

Of course, limitations on remote-controlled aircraft still exist. For the most part, these are rather standard restrictions: aircraft must weigh less than 55 pounds, fly below 400 feet line of sight, and must avoid other aircraft.

31 thoughts on “FAA Rescinds Drone Ban Around DC

  1. if you live there…… be sure to look into this more. I believe the AMA notice yesterday said it was ONLY on AMA sanctioned fields that you can fly. Formetly they banned ALL flight even in designated AMA hobby fields. All they have done is to re-allow us on to the AMA fields specifically designated for model flight , for ama members.

        1. Yeah, but that oversimplifies things a lot. Jenny is in England, and I’m in Germany. We have contributing writers on every continent except Antarctica.

          Not everything we write about will be relevant to everyone everywhere in the world. C’est la vie.

          But we’re _not_ provincial. If anything, the opposite.

    1. I feel this sort of news is important, even though I don’t live in the US.

      Why? Because I’m sure governments and authorities round the world are keeping an eye on these events, to see how it goes and to work out if they need to adopt similar rules or work out their own.

      Just look at the recent news that the Met Police in the UK considered using eagles to tackle drones after they saw the Dutch Police have a go. A case of dumbass ideas spreading because nobody gave it any real thought or research, just kneejerk reactions to potential situations.

      1. Exactly! It’s the same reason I follow international news. I don’t know why folks are so quick to cry americentrism, especially on sites where the writers are for the most part living in the US. It makes as much sense as going on the BBC’s site and complaining that there is too much UK specific stuff there…

  2. I’m a fixed wing pilot: I had to get the FAA paper ticket to legally fly a single sheet Dollar Tree foam board electric RC Flite Test FT Flyer in the farm county of Ohio’s Midwest because with the battery it weights 270g or 9-1/2 ounces. Washington mindlessness at it’s finest.

  3. I’m 37ish years old. I’ve wanted to get into RC planes all my life, but as a kid I couldn’t afford the hobby and my parents couldn’t afford it for me either, to say the least.

    Now after several years of being in an income bracket that would have let me enjoy this hobby to its fullest, and just the natural progression of the cost of entry falling due to, well, China, I bought a couple of planes.
    One of them being a Bixler 2 that is foam and cheap enough to learn on without too many tears shed, and a glow powered trainer that I could take the next step on.

    I was in the middle of working on getting the Bixler flight ready when the FAA decided it was time to take action.
    The problem now is that you have to register and I refuse to do that.

    The legal ground on which the FAA has decided to take its footing is shaky at best and the rules, which have of course always been there are now supposedly laws, and me out enjoying my foam glider or glow trainer can easily open the door for harassment from just about anyone that wants to be a pain in the ass.

    Given the attitude of people towards “drones” or really quad or hex or whatever ‘copters. I just don’t want to deal with the hostility.

    People being bad with one form of RC craft has pretty much thrown a blanket over RC model planes as well, which I see as a totally different animal which had been flying self governed for years with no major mishaps involving real aircraft. (well there have been some people being bad with long range FPV on fixed wing platforms, so shame on them too)

    Now any time a “real” plane or heli pilot sees an RC craft, its a major temptation to yell “it was flying right up my tail pipe!” even when its later shown there was more than enough separation between the two, and who’s word do cops and judges and the news media take at face value? Not the guy flying RC whatevers for a hobby…

    I live on a pretty big lot in the county with a big open field behind my house, but there’s a small, municipal airport with like 3 planes a day just a couple of miles away. and when you drop a pin on the center of it on a map, and due a 5 mile radius, it covers my entire town, that doesn’t have any close by flying fields. The nearest is about 40 miles away…

    SO my point I guess is I’ll be one less RC plane pilot. I won’t break this supposed rule, but I’m not going to deal with all the crap that goes with actually flying either. Mainly the uneducated public and the chicken little’s in “real aircraft” .

    The planes make some pretty neat kitch in my workshop and I can use the servos and such for other things I guess.

    Sad times.

    1. That was a point I made a while ago. If you take a sectional chart and fill in a five-mile radius around every airfield, on the east coast there would be small islands of virgin paper surrounded by a sea of ink. It’s ridiculous and the “law”(laws are made by Congress, not departments) is clearly designed to be a route to punishment, and therefore revenue – just like so many other “laws” on the books.

      1. I meant to continue…

        … just like so many other “laws” on the books, rather than actually serving the purposes of public safety.

        (bold, intensified, blinking font) HaD, FFS LET US EDIT OUR POSTS!!!!!!!!

        1. Does wordpress (I think the comments are WP based) not have that functionality, or is it HaD’s configuration that disables editing comments? It’s been a common gripe for so long that I’m suspecting it’s a software limitation.

          1. The easiest way to allow editing is to require everyone to register, which kills anonymous commenting. That would be a bummer.

            There are other systems, but none that are “approved” for direct use, which means that our web folks would have to do a full security audit, etc.

            TL;DR: we would like to allow comment editing.

    2. There is a ama field near a small airport within the boundary limit I haven’t stayed in contact but I bet they are pissed. Many real pilots go and fly their hobby airplanes there. It is outside the pattern. I cant see a way due to pattern change due to wind change that the planes over this area would be any where below 500 feet. This rule seems silly as a blanket ban I feel you.

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