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FAA restricts unauthorized drone operations at AETC bases

  • Published
  • By Capt. Beau Downey
  • Air Education and Training Command Public Affairs
Drone enthusiasts beware, Air Education and Training Command installations are covered by Federal Aviation Administration regulations that restrict unmanned aircraft operations.


Using its existing authority under Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations, the FAA instituted airspace restrictions at the request of the Department of Defense based on national security concerns April 14, 2017 and expanded them on July 30, 2017 to include all AETC designated sites.  The restrictions prohibit operating unmanned aircraft up to 400 feet within the lateral boundaries of identified military installations without permission.


“The safety and security of the airspace around our installations are our primary concerns,” said D. Scott Wilson, AETC Air Traffic Control and Landing Systems project coordinator. “That is why we requested to have AETC sites included in the FAA flight restrictions.”


The FAA defines unmanned aircraft systems, sometimes called drones, as aircraft without a human pilot onboard, which are instead controlled from an operator on the ground. This includes common commercially available off-the-shelf systems.


AETC operated over 417,000 total flight hours at its installations in 2016. Flying unmanned aircraft in that airspace not only puts the pilots and their aircraft in danger, it puts those on the ground in danger as well.


The night of July 10, 2017 saw the grounding of flying training operations at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma when an unauthorized unmanned aerial system entered the base’s airspace.  


These new restrictions will look to make future flying training safer by deconflicting the airspace and enhance means to protect the security of our installations.


While there are limited exceptions for unmanned aircraft operation within the restricted areas, they must be coordinated in advance with the FAA and specifically approved by the base. Those operating within the restricted airspace without permission could jeopardize flying safety or installation security and may be subject to civil penalties and criminal charges.


“We are taking these restrictions very seriously,” Wilson said. “Our hope is this will mean safer skies and enhanced security for our men and women who perform the training mission each day.”


To access the FAA’s interactive airspace map, click here.
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