The FAA has just made much of the country a no-fly zone.

An official notice in the Federal Register posted today states that all recreational flights within controlled airspace must be specifically authorized. In a separate post on the FAA’s site, it’s made clear that “Until further notice, air traffic control facilities will no longer accept requests to operate recreational drones in controlled airspace on a case-by-case basis.”

This effectively wipes out large swaths of the country that were previously available. Under prior rules, pilots needed only notify any towered airport within 5 miles of an intent to fly. Now, that space is entirely off-limits. But it gets worse; the “Class E” airspace outside of that area is also “controlled” airspace. It’s usually large enough to cover whole towns in front of the approach to an airport. These areas are unavailable, too. Previously established AMA fields are still authorized flying sites, but these areas often require expensive memberships (both from AMA national and the local chapter) and chapters are at times not friendly to some types of aircraft, such as drones.

To locate the new boundaries of allowed airspace, we recommend Skyward, or the FAA’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Facility Maps.

An anonymous source tells us that the working group within the FAA tasked with handling recreational flights was taken by surprise and isn’t behind this new rule. We can’t corroborate this, but there’s little reason to doubt it since these sweeping effects are backed by thin reasoning at best. The FAA’s own map on the Know Before you Fly site for drone pilots doesn’t even show these “Class E” airspaces that have become prohibited. When the FAA itself can’t provide good information about what’s allowed, it’s little wonder why some pilots aren’t inclined to pay close attention.

There is a long-term plan in place for a system to authorize recreational flights. Unfortunately until that comes online, (potentially at the end of the summer or later,) model aircraft pilots have been stripped of their access to much of the skies.

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