FAA: No, You Cannot Fly Your Drone Around Philly During Pope Visit

Also, the feds remind us that they can use "deadly force" against manned aircraft that violate the no-fly zone.

Pope Francis drone ban

Pope Francis image by Korea.net / Korean Culture and Information Service (Jeon Han) used under a Creative Commons license; drone graphic via FAA

Drone enthusiasts love to get aerial videos of cool events, and the stream of people flooding into the city for the pope’s visit would make for a perfect subject. (OMG: Popemobile drone video!) Alas, the federal government is saying no way.

On Tuesday, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an alert that United States cities on the pope’s itinerary — Washington, D.C., New York and Philadelphia — are “No Drone Zones” from Tuesday, September 22nd through Sunday, September 27th.

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

There are also general flight restrictions for all of the cities, with the airspace being most restricted in the Washington, D.C. area, where President Barack Obama will greet Pope Francis upon his arrival at Andrews Air Force Base. The pope will also become the first pontiff to address a joint meeting of Congress. So yeah, tight security.

On Saturday and Sunday, when the pope will be in Philadelphia, the airspace around the city is defined in a NOTAM (that’s fancy FAA lingo for “Notice to Airmen”) as “National Defense Airspace.” If that sounds pretty serious, it is. Any pilots who try to fly over Philadelphia will be “intercepted,” which conjures up images of fighter jets and the like.

The FAA also reminds pilots that the government can choose to use “deadly force” against any offending aircraft, if it is determined that the plane “poses an imminent security threat.”

Also prohibited during the pope’s visit are model aircraft, model rockets, gliders, parachuting, ultralight planes, hang gliders, and any type of “balloon operations.”

Don’t say we didn’t warn you.