San Francisco bans drones for Fleet Week

Due to the popularity of recreational drones, there will be a temporary flight restriction in place prohibiting the use of drones in the skies above San Francisco during Fleet Week beginning Thursday, according to local and federal officials.

The “No Drone Zone” was created to ensure the safety of both airshow participants and spectators, according to the San Francisco Police Department.

Drones, or unmanned, remote-controlled aircraft, are prohibited from roving the skies within a 5 nautical mile radius around the center point of the Fleet Week airshow, while aerial demonstrations are taking place.

The center point of the airshow, which will include the Blue Angels performance, is just north of San Francisco’s Crissy Field.

The no-fly zone covers the area from the ground or water to 15,000 feet up in the air. The no-fly zone will be in place during the day from Thursday to Sunday, according to the police department.

Anyone who flies an aircraft, or operates a drone, in the no-fly zone can expect the federal government to levy a fine of up to $10,000, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

The No Drone Zone hours will be from 1 to 6 p.m. on Thursday and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday through Sunday, according to the FAA.

FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said today that it is important that the public understand that “drones and Fleet Week do not mix.” All aircraft operations, whether manned and unmanned, are prohibited within the airshow area when the restrictions are in effect, according to the FAA.

The use of recreational drones has recently interfered with efforts to fight forest fires by air in California.

Cal Fire reported that “one of many recent incidents in which hobby drones have caused disruptions in the suppression of California’s major wildfires” occurred in July during the aerial attack on the North Fire near U.S. Highway 15 in the San Bernadino National Forest.

Firefighting efforts were disrupted when several unmanned aircraft systems, or drones, were spotted and the firefighting aircraft were forced to land to avoid a potential collision with the drones.

The fire burned 4,250 acres of land, and destroyed seven homes, 16 outbuildings and 44 vehicles. Motorists had to flee from their vehicles on foot because aircraft were unable to operate in the area, according to Cal Fire.

A public service announcement released by Cal Fire last month discouraged hobby drone operators from flying their drones anywhere near firefighting activity, for the safety of pilots, firefighters and residents.

“A collision with a hobby drone could cause damage, injury or even death. We need your help. Don’t make our jobs even more dangerous,” firefighting pilots imparted to viewers via YouTube.

FAA policy administator Rich Swayze has said that the FAA expects up to 1 million unmanned aerial vehicles to be sold during the holiday season this year.

The increase in drone popularity has forced the FAA to enforce air restrictions such as the one that will be in place during San Francisco’s Fleet Week.