Drone operators caught flying unmanned aircraft near any of 133 different military installations will be subject to arrest under new rules taking effect this week, the Federal Aviation Administration said Friday.
Citing “national security concerns,” the FAA said drone hobbyists will no longer be able to conduct unauthorized flights near military bases starting Friday, April 14.
“The FAA and the Department of Defense have agreed to restrict drone flights up to 400 feet within the lateral boundaries of these 133 facilities,” the agency said in a statement.
The policy change marks the first time ever the FAA has instituted airspace restrictions that apply solely to unmanned aircraft, according to the statement.
“Operators who violate the airspace restrictions may be subject to enforcement action, including potential civil penalties and criminal charges,” the statement said.
The number of small, hobbyist drones in operation is expected to surge from about 1.1 million in 2016 to 3.55 million in 2021, the FAA predicted in a report published last month. Commercial drones, meanwhile, are expected to grow ten-fold during that same span from about 42,000 in 2016 to 442,000 in 2021, according to the report.
The number of people flying unmanned aircraft is expected to grow by about 69 percent annually over the next 5 years, the FAA report said.
Existing federal rules already restrict drone operators from flying unmanned aircraft near sports stadiums, airports and the vicinity of Washington, D.C.