FAA restricts drone use over military ships near Naval Base Kitsap

BANGOR, Wash. — Concerned about drones above military bases, especially the nuclear submarine base in Bangor, the Federal Aviation Administration on Friday added new restrictions on flying over Navy and Coast Guard ships.

The restrictions apply in a new zone stretching from Naval Base Kitsap through the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the Pacific Ocean.

The FAA says drones must stay 3,000 feet horizontally or 1,000 feet vertically from  Navy and Coast Guard ships.

Violating drones could be seized or destroyed.

Asked if the Navy might shoot down drones above ships, a spokesman wrote to KIRO 7 that the military always retains "the inherent right and obligation to act in self-defense."

Naval Base Kitsap's Bangor facility is one of two nuclear submarine bases in the country.

At the Navy's request, the Kitsap County Commission is writing an ordinance to prevent drones from taking off within 3,000 feet of any of the county's five Naval facilities.

Kitsap County's policy manager, Eric Baker, said the Navy reports 75 drone overflights of Naval Base Kitsap in the last two years.

"It's enough for the military to be substantially concerned," Baker said. "This is coming down from the highest levels of the military."

Kitsap County is still revising the ordinance and plans to allow commercial drone operators, like real estate photographers, to apply for exemptions to fly within 3,000 feet of a base.

A vote on the ordinance is expected early in 2019.

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