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FAA shuts down dozens of drone clubs near Washington, DC

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The Federal Aviation Administration last week asked drone and model aircraft clubs operating within 30 miles of Washington, DC's airport to cease flying due to national security and airspace issues, according to a report by Motherboard. While the FAA extended its DC no-fly zone radius from 15 to 30 miles back in September, it​ only recently sent a letter to the Academy of Model Aircraft (AMA) asking the organization to shut down 14 flying sites used by its accredited drone clubs. As many as 36 total clubs have been affected by the FAA's rules, and some of the flying sites are wide open fields located outside DC in nearby Maryland and Virginia.

It's no surprise the FAA is imposing strict drone restrictions in and around the nation's capital, but club members say the extended no-fly zone is overly prohibitive given many of the flying sites have met general drone safety guidelines for years. DC Drone User Club president Christopher Vo told Motherboard his organization, one of the largest in the country, will be forced to move events and flying activities indoors until the AMA and FAA settle the dispute. Others have indefinitely halted operations.

The FAA extended its no-fly zone radius from 15 to 30 miles

"We have every reason to believe that this is a temporary situation," the AMA clarified in an email to members. An agreement with the FAA may reopen the flying sites as soon as January, the AMA added, but until then it expects local authorities to enforce the ban.

The situation is yet another regulatory battle between the growing number of drone enthusiasts and government regulators, which have struggled to keep pace with the drone boom that's filling the skies with low-cost aircraft. The FAA announced earlier this month that drone owners must register their device with a name and home address by February 19th, 2016 or face civil penalties up to $27,500 and criminal penalties up to $250,000 and three years in prison.