Despite all the excitement ignited by Sunday’s 60 Minutes report on UFOs, people in the Washington DC area shouldn’t speed dial Fox Mulder if they spot something strange in the skies this month. That’ll just be the US Secret Service putting their drones through the moves.
Cloak and droner operation
Just hours after the 60 Minutes segment featured a variety officials backed up by military video footage detailing numerous sightings of astonishing, perhaps other worldly flying objects, the Secret Service revealed it will be conducting drone flights over the greater DC area. Ever so slightly loosening its famously tight lips, the Secret Service said it will conduct the drone operations from May 17 to the end of the month.
It described – nearly, anyway – the activity as part of its “protective mission” carried out “in conjunction with the FAA and other federal, state and local partners.”
The agency has flown experimental drone missions in the capital before. During testing in 2015, the Secret Service flew missions near the White House – usually banned to virtually all aircraft – in the dead of night to avoid overly curious eyes. Previous trials have focused on both signal-jamming and other techniques to intercept and neutralize potentially hostile craft, and uses in the Service’s own law enforcement and protection work.
Restrictions on DC UAV
As in some earlier instances, the Secret Service made Monday’s briefest of announcements as a means of avoiding anyone catching a glimpse of the drone activity becoming alarmed. DC falls within the 30-mile radius area around Reagan Washington National Airport governed by strict flight rules that were put into place after the 9/11 attacks. Flying drones or other unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) within the inner 15-mile radius of that zone is prohibited without special FAA authorization.
Drone flights in the outer ring are allowed under certain conditions. Craft and payloads must weigh less than 55 lbs and be registered and marked; stay within altitudes of 400 ft; remain within visual line of sight; avoid other aircraft; and respect clear weather requirements.
Despite the unusually raised public profile in announcing its UAV plans, the Service did not divulge where the flights would take place, what time they’d occur, or how many drones would be involved. It isn’t called secret for nothing.
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