The days of flying drones at Washington’s state Capitol will soon be over.
State officials have adopted rules banning the use of drones at the 486-acre Capitol Campus in Olympia. The new rules, announced Wednesday by the state Department of Enterprise Services, will take effect Feb. 11.
Under the new policy, no one will be able to land, launch or operate an unmanned aerial vehicle, commonly known as a drone, at the Capitol.
The rules will apply to remote-controlled model aircraft as well as commercial drones.
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“It applies to everything, any hobbyist type or commercial type,” said Linda Kent, a spokeswoman for the Department of Enterprise Services. “Anything with a motor on it that someone is piloting around.”
Drones used by law enforcement or in emergency response situations are excluded from the ban.
In a news release, department officials said they were concerned about the safety of people who work at the Capitol, as well as visitors to the campus.
In February, a drone crashed into a window at the Office of the Secretary of State, but didn’t do any damage, officials said.
While no one has been injured in a drone incident at the Capitol so far, Kent said the department wants to prevent the kinds of accidents that have occurred elsewhere, including people being injured by drones while attending public events such as parades.
The Federal Aviation Administration recently said it would increase enforcement of commercial drone rules following a string of drone-related incidents, including a crash that injured a baby in Pasadena, California, the New York Times reported.
In November, a British toddler lost an eye when a drone operator lost control of one of the small aircraft, according to the BBC.
Federal officials are also concerned about reports of drones flying close to jets and airports. The FAA prohibits drones from flying higher than 400 feet or within 5 miles of an airport. Last month, the agency began requiring the aircraft to be registered to help identify drone operators who are violating the rules.
“Bottom line — it’s a safety first rule,” said Bob Covington, deputy director of the Department of Enterprise Services, in a news release. “We are taking this proactive step to help ensure the safety of everyone who visits the Capitol Campus, from school children on tours to groups exercising free speech rights, to people participating in the legislative process and state business.”
The rules were proposed last year, and the agency took public comment on them for 41 days, including at a hearing in December, the department said.
Kent said that penalties for violating the drone ban at the Capitol will depend on the circumstance. Some drone users will simply be given a warning; others could face reckless endangerment charges if they are jeopardizing others’ safety, she said.