No, you can’t fly drones over the White House

Posted at 7:48 AM, Jan 26, 2015

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — In the United States, drone flying rules are pretty strict. Flying them over the White House is, naturally, out of the question.

Before dawn Monday morning, the U.S. Secret Service said a drone apparently found its way onto the White House property. Agents merely described it as a “device” and said they’d pick it up at daybreak.

The Federal Aviation Administration has laid out some harsh rules regarding “unmanned aerial vehicles.” That includes everything from your model airplane to scary-looking, shoulder-launched, militaristic drones.

If you’re flying one for fun, the FAA lets you do it below 400 feet, away from airports, air traffic, military bases and other restricted locations like the White House. You also must always fly drones within sight. That means if you can’t see the drone with your own eyes, you’re doing it wrong.

The FAA has strictly prohibited using a drone for business (wedding photography, filming a movie, etc.). The agency is still developing rules for commercial drone use, so it’s only approving the occasional “cooperative research and development agreement,” essentially a carefully-watched experiment. CNN got one.

Going forward, the FAA seems like its leaning toward rules requiring a pilot’s license for commercial use — and only within sight.

As for the White House area, the problem isn’t just that there are busy streets and it’s an urban area. After the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, the FAA declared the airspace over Washington, D.C. a flight restricted zone. The agency cited a 1994 incident in which someone deliberately flew their Cessna 150 into the White House while on “a suicidal plot.”

These restrictions do have some merit. A relatively small drone can carry a few pounds at a time. And if it’s loaded up with just one pound of, say, C-4 explosive, it could cause a significant amount of damage.

It’s not just aircraft that are barred from the White House area. No ground vehicles are allowed on Pennsylvania Avenue, the street directly in front of the White House. And trucks are prohibited on the street just west of the mansion’s property.

So, no flying drones around the White House, okay?

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