Prior to the end of December, drone pilots were legally allowed to fly drones near seven nuclear research sites, including Oak Ridge and Los Alamos. It is surprising that no rules to prohibit this existed prior to December 29th, 2017, but thankfully the ban is in effect now.
While there have been no publicized instances of pilots causing damage with drones around nuclear research facilities, there was previously nothing stopping a curious pilot from sending their drone to explore the facilities.
The FAA notes that this is the first time it implements airspace restrictions regarding the Department of Energy’s nuclear research sites that prevent drones from flying overhead.
Interestingly, these restrictions are not worded like an actual ban, because drones are still able to fly near the facility as long as they gain approval from either the FAA or the research facility itself.
The FAA has been creating and enforcing more drone restrictions in the last year due to an increase in drone usage. There are already bans preventing drones from flying near airports and emergency personnel, so it is very surprising that it has taken this long for these restrictions to be put in place.