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FAA may issue drone-flight restrictions near Hurricane Matthew response efforts

Authorized aircraft may be flying at very low altitudes over affected areas

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ORLANDO, Fla. – The Federal Aviation Administration may issue flight restrictions in the vicinity of disaster areas as a result of Hurricane Matthew.

Authorities said authorized aircraft may be flying at very low altitudes over affected areas during response operations to Hurricane Matthew.

Unauthorized unmanned aircraft system or drone operations may prevent other aircraft from performing life-saving missions and increase the risk of midair collision. Authorities said anyone, including hobbyist or recreational fliers, who interferes with disaster-response efforts is subject to civil penalties of up to $32,140 per violation and possible criminal prosecution.

"Unmanned aircraft system or drone operators are responsible for checking applicable flight restrictions before operating and must not interfere with any aircraft assisting in hurricane disaster-response operations, regardless if there is a flight restriction in place or not," FAA officials said.

Drone operators can find information about posted flight restrictions by using the FAA's B4UFLY mobile app or checking the FAA's website, officials said.

UAS or drone operators supporting disaster-response operations must be approved by the FAA before operating. Officials said operators may seek approval by following these steps:

The operator must secure support from a governmental entity and the operation must directly contribute to the response, relief or recovery effort.

After completing step one, the operator must contact the FAA's Systems Operations Support Center, or SOSC, at 202-267-8276 for assistance.

After calling the SOSC, the operator must also send the request via email to 9-ator-hq-sosc@faa.gov.