FAA will restrict drone flights near nuclear energy sites next week

The FAA is about to restrict the areas in which you can fly your drones. Starting next week, it will be illegal to fly your drones anywhere near one of seven nuclear energy sites, a ban established in the interest of national security. This is the first time the FAA has issued a drone ban at the request of the Energy Department, which asked the FAA to use its authority to create the restricted airspace.

Airspace restrictions applied specifically to drones aren't new, but they are growing in number. These restrictions aim to keep both people and data safe, depending on the area being protected. Current restrictions ban operating drones near airports, for example, out of fear that a drone could collide with a plane and cause a catastrophe.

It is also illegal to operate drones around or over military bases, another safety measure to prevent both spying and potential attacks. More recently, the FAA used its Title 14 authority to ban flying drones over certain Interior Department sites, such as large dams.

Though some restrictions are designed to keep people safe from falling drones or accidents resulting from drones, other restrictions appear to be a preemptive move against surveillance that could be used for cyberattacks or terrorist attacks.

These latest restrictions, which will go live on December 29, appear to cover the latter. All seven sites (listed below) feature nuclear production and/or research facilities, some active, others in the process of being decommissioned. Restricting travel within 400ft of these sites will help prevent drones from being used to conduct surveillance on the facilities.

Hanford Site, Franklin County, WA

Pantex Site, Panhandle, TX

Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, NM

Idaho National Laboratory, Idaho Falls, ID

Savannah River National Laboratory, Aiken, SC

Y-12 National Security Site, Oak Ridge, TN

Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN