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No drones near the pope, please, says the FAA

Flying Drone
LU YAO/Shutterstock
Sure, you can take pictures of Pope Francis but please, don’t try to fly a drone near him when he makes his historic visit to the United States at the end of the month. One monk already had his peace and quiet disturbed earlier in September by one of these airborne devices, and now, the Federal Aviation Administration is doing everything it can to make sure that no other religious figure, particularly the head of the Catholic faith, is subjected to a similar scare.

In a press release publicized on Tuesday, the FAA noted, “As the Papal visit approaches, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is reminding residents of and visitors to Washington, DC, New York, and Philadelphia that these cities and the surrounding communities are No Drone Zones from September 22 through September 27, 2015.” That’s an order.

“If you plan to attend any of the Papal visit events, please leave your drone at home,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “Anyone flying a drone within the designated restricted areas may be subject to civil and criminal charges.” And if you think you may play a game of semantics with the administrative body, you’d be very wrong, as the FAA has noted that any and all unmanned aircraft, which includes remote or radio-controlled model airplanes, are strictly forbidden.

While the ban may seem somewhat amusing or at least excessive, as drones become increasingly commonplace in the United States and across the world, officials are quickly realizing that stricter regulations over where and when they can be flown are becoming a necessity. Already, Washington, D.C. has stringent protocols in place — the FAA notes, “The airspace around Washington, DC is more restricted than in any other part of the country.  A prohibition against flying any type of unmanned aircraft without specific approval exists around the District of Columbia, cities, towns, and airports.”

Of course, American security officials have gone to great lengths to assure us that drones (or the lack thereof) will be the least of the security concerns for the pope’s five-day visit to the States. Jeh Johnson, secretary of Homeland Security, said in a recent press conference that “a lot” of preparation had gone into Pope Francis’ highly anticipated trip. “I have no concerns,” Johnson said. “I know for a fact that a lot of planning has gone into this. We are looking forward to a successful visit.” And one that is fully free of drones.

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