WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE, N.M. – The entire White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) installation is restricted airspace, meaning that flying Unmanned Aircraft Systems, also known as drones, is not allowed anywhere on the installation.
"There are several laws regulating drones usage. If we do find somebody flying a drone on our military installation, there are quite a few things they can be charged with - offenses include reckless endangerment, criminal mischief and more," said Thomas Benavidez from the WSMR Department of Emergency Services Physical Security Office. "That is why we are trying to be as proactive as possible in notifying the public."
The FAA defines Unmanned Aircraft Systems as an aircraft operated without the possibility of direct human intervention from within or on the aircraft. Recently, the FAA updated its regulations due to the increased amount of people operating these types of aircraft.
On March 15, the annual Bataan Memorial Death March will take place at White Sands Missile Range. The usually secluded range will suddenly host thousands of visitors honoring service members who defended the Philippine Islands during World War II.
"If you are coming to WSMR for Bataan and you have drones, leave them home, this is restricted airspace and you cannot fly them here," said Benavidez, noting that violators may be detained and cited.
All Bataan participants and spectators are subject to regulations, despite their intentions with the drones, including drones used for recreation or as a hobby.
Over the past few years, drones have become a safety concern beyond military installations with restricted air space. The surge in their popularity has caused legal scenarios that are new to law enforcement at every level. The FAA is working with local and state law enforcement to stop unsafe practices and illegal use of these aircraft.
If you spot drone usage on White Sands Missile Range, report it to Physical Security at (575) 678-1234.
For more information on Unmanned Aircraft Systems, please visit: https://www.faa.gov/uas/