HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – Citing security concerns, base officials recently restricted the use of all personal unmanned aircraft systems, or drones, over the boundaries of the installation.
The decision follows a recommendation made last month by the 66th Security Forces Squadron commander to the Integrated Defense Council.
“In order to control the use of these small aircraft systems on base, we needed to prohibit them from personal use,” said Maj. Brett Skates, 66th Security Forces Squadron commander. “The decision was made to ensure the safety and security of everyone who lives and works at Hanscom.”
The policy does not include Fourth Cliff Recreation Area in Humarock, Massachusetts.
Base officials may authorize the use of drones for official use after operators receive the appropriate approvals.
“The 66th Air Base Group may permit official use of small unmanned aircraft systems so long as the approval process is followed,” Skates said. “Organizations that use them for official purposes must still obtain approval from the FAA tower at Hanscom Field, but now must also secure permission from the 66th Air Base Group before operating these small aircraft.”
Approval is required to ensure certain base agencies and first responders are aware of the operations, and to deconflict events that may be occurring at the same time or in the same areas of flight operations, Skates said.
Base officials are currently in the process of formalizing the official flight authorization process.
The Hanscom policy follows an agreement in April by the Federal Aviation Administration and Department of Defense to restrict drone flights within the boundaries of several other military installations, according to an FAA release published on www.faa.gov.
“U.S. military facilities are vital to the nation’s security. 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,” read the release.
The FAA website includes a map of the U.S. restricted airspace, “to ensure the public is aware of these restricted locations.”
For those interested in flying the small aircraft off Hanscom AFB, and within five nautical miles of Hanscom Airfield, officials remind users that they must register the UAS with the FAA and contact the air traffic control tower at Hanscom Field before flying.
According to the FAA website, UAS operators must follow these basic safety guidelines when operating them.
- Fly at or below 400 feet and stay away from surrounding obstacles
- Keep your UAS within sight
- Never fly near other aircraft, especially near airports
- Never fly over groups of people
- Never fly over stadiums or sports events
- Never fly near emergency response efforts such as fires
- Never fly under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Understand airspace restrictions and requirements
To assist with registering and marking unmanned aircraft between 0.55 pounds and up to 55 pounds, the FAA provides a web-based aircraft registration process for owners of small UASs at https://registermyuas.faa.gov/.
Registrants 13 years of age or older will need to provide their name, home address and an email address. Upon completion of the registration process, the web application will generate a certificate of aircraft registration/proof of ownership that will include a unique identification number for the UAS owner, which must be marked on the aircraft. There is a $5 registration fee.
Owners using model aircraft for hobby or recreation will only have to register once and may use the same identification number for all of their model UAS. The registration is valid for three years.
Detailed information on drone use, to include rules, regulations and registration can be found at www.faa.gov/uas
and at www.knowbeforeyoufly.org.