Last week, NACD’s Eric Byer, Lindsay Ryan, Layla Soberanis, and I met with the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) drone and hazardous materials offices. We had a good discussion regarding NACD members’ concerns about drones flying near their facilities and what actions they can take to protect their operations.
The FAA officials made clear they will not issue widespread no-fly zones around critical infrastructure facilities such as chemical plants; however, they emphasized that owners and operators like you have several resources available and actions you can take to protect your facilities from suspicious drone flyovers.
For starters, the FAA is conducting a No Drone Zone public outreach campaign to promote the safe and responsible use of drones. The No Drone Zone Digital tool kit they created includes signage to inform drone operators that flying in certain areas is prohibited. You can post these notices just as you would No Trespassing signs.
In addition, the FAA told us they know there’s been an increase in the unauthorized use of inexpensive drones by individuals and organizations. They said that while they’re responsible for enforcing aviation regulations, including those covering drones, the agency recognizes state and local law enforcement agencies can play an important role to deter, detect, delay, investigate, or pursue enforcement actions to stop unauthorized or unsafe drone usage. The FAA has issued a Law Enforcement Guidance for Suspected Unauthorized UAS Operations to help clarify the roles of FAA and law enforcement in preventing inappropriate drone usage. I encourage you to share this with any local law enforcement organizations you work with in your communities so they’re aware of the actions they can take to ensure drones are operated lawfully.
The FAA also made clear that if your company personnel notices suspicious drone activity around your facilities, you should contact local law enforcement right away just as you would if there was a suspicious person around your facility. The agency has published a Reference Card with information about drone incident reporting and law enforcement response. This includes details you should report and contact information.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) also has a webpage about drones and critical infrastructure. In addition to referencing the FAA’s activities and resources, this DHS webpage offers more resources including a video, “UAS and Critical Infrastructure – Understanding the Risk” and a UAS Critical Infrastructure Drone Pocket Card.
As more and more drones take flight in communities throughout the country, it is good to know that the federal government is aware of our industry’s safety and security concerns. This is certainly an area where companies will need to remain vigilant and not hesitate to report suspicious activities to law enforcement.