Officials with the Academy of Model Aeronautics just sent out a message to its members, reminding them to “refrain from flight before, during and after Hurricane Florence and not to interfere with emergency response and relief efforts,” warning that interference could result in “significant fines.”
The message begins: “Hurricane Florence is due to make landfall on the coasts of North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia on Friday, Sept. 14. The storm is projected to bring record-breaking rain and wind to the area and has prompted mandatory evacuations along the East Coast. Given these conditions, it is of the utmost importance that all unmanned aerial systems (UAS) operators refrain from flight.”
Officials acknowledge that AMA member know to “stay grounded,” but urged their members to “spread the word to other UAS operators who may not know that flight before, during and after the storm can be dangerous.”
As soon as the storm is over, emergency response and relief efforts will be underway. (See related story about preparing general aviation pilots to help in the aftermath of the storm.)
AMA officials advise all drone operators to check if there is an active Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) in their area.
“Furthermore, although post-storm conditions may seem clear to fly, you must not interfere with any of these crucial operations,” the message continues. “UAS can be a helpful tool during disaster relief, but unless you are working directly with relief efforts, you must stay clear and allow the professionals to do their vital work.”
AMA officials warn that unauthorized UAS operators may be subject to significant fines — more than $20,000 — if they interfere with emergency response and relief operations.
“Flying a drone without authorization in or near the disaster area may violate federal, state or local laws and ordinances, even if a TFR is not in place,” officials note.
To see if there is an active TFR in your area, go to TFR.FAA.gov.