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EAA Opposes Disney Plan to Fly Drones Inside TFR

May 5, 2016 - EAA has submitted comments opposing an exemption request by Walt Disney to fly drones over their theme parks. In addition to seeking an exemption to operate small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS) commercially, Disney also requested an exemption to the temporary flight restrictions (TFRs) that its parks lay inside. These TFRs were established by Congress, largely at the behest of Disney, after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 out of a stated concern for public safety.

The TFRs over Disney’s Anaheim, California and Orlando, Florida parks would normally prohibit most flight operations, including recreational and commercial drones and model aircraft. EAA wrote in its comments, “While EAA continues to disagree with the basis of these Congressionally-mandated TFRs, as long as they are to remain in place, their full intent should be recognized and restrictions enforced.”

“Disney and other sports and entertainment companies lobbied for these TFRs on the basis of national security,” said Sean Elliott, EAA vice president of Advocacy and Safety. “By using exemptions to pick and choose what can and cannot fly over their parks, Disney is proposing to use these TFRs to monopolize the airspace over their property. These TFRs should be either fully enforced or all operators should enjoy equal access to the airspace.”

Disney’s proposal would allow “swarms” of numerous semi-autonomous drones to operate over the parks. The exemption request seeks a departure from the standard “Section 333 Exemption,” in allowing the drones to be controlled by an operator who does not possess a valid airman certificate. Commercial sUAS operations normally carry this requirement under the current exemption process.

In opposing these deviations from standard operator requirements, EAA wrote that “new business opportunities do not provide adequate basis for an exemption from established safety standards carefully designed to protect the public.”

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