Feds declare 'No Drone Zone' for Pope's visit

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The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is warning drone users that they can't fly the devices in cities where the Pope is visiting this month.

The Pope is scheduled to visit Washington, D.C., New York and Philadelphia on Sept. 22-27.

 The FAA said Tuesday that it is declaring the cities "No Drone Zones" during the Pope's visit, despite its moves earlier this year toward crafting rules for increasing use of the devices for non-military purposes. 

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"If you plan to attend any of the Papal visit events, please leave your drone at home,” FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said in a statement announcing the flight restrictions. 

“Anyone flying a drone within the designated restricted areas may be subject to civil and criminal charges,” he continued. 

The FAA’s rules define small drones as devices that weigh less than 55 pounds and require them to be operated at heights that are less than 500 feet and speeds that are less than 100 miles per hour.

The regulations also call for drone flights to be limited to daytime hours and conducted only by U.S. residents who are older than 17. Drone operators are also prohibited under the FAA proposal from conducting flights that take the devices out of their line of vision, which is a big blow to companies, like Amazon, that have touted the possibility of using the technology to conduct deliveries. 

The rules make drone operators responsible for avoiding collisions with manned aircraft that are in the same airspace as the devices, and the prohibit drone flights that “fly over people, except those directly involved with the flight.”

The FAA had been facing pressure to approve a rapid expansion of nonmilitary drone use. Congress gave the agency until the end of this month to finalize new the rules for the unmanned aircraft, but the agency released a draft of the new regulations in February. 

The proposed rules define small drones as devices that weigh less than 55 pounds and require them to be operated at heights that are less than 500 feet and speeds that are less than 100 miles per hour.

The regulations also call for drone flights to be limited to daytime hours and conducted only by U.S. residents who are older than 17. Drone operators are also prohibited under the FAA proposal from conducting flights that take the devices out of their line of vision, which is a big blow to companies, like Amazon, that have touted the possibility of using the technology to conduct deliveries. 

The rules make drone operators responsible for avoiding collisions with manned aircraft that are in the same airspace as the devices, and the prohibit drone flights that “fly over people, except those directly involved with the flight.”

The agency said Tuesday that it has put "flight restrictions in place in and around Washington, DC, New York and Philadelphia" that will outlaw drone use during the Pope visit to the U.S. 

"Flying a drone anywhere Pope Francis will visit is against the law," the agency said. "Any unmanned aircraft (UAS) – including radio-controlled model aircraft/UAS – are subject to FAA requirements."