The Federal Aviation Administration today warned that entire cities will be blocked off as no-drone zones for Pope Francis’ visit next week.
The pope flies into Andrews Air Force Base one week from today, on Sept. 22. On Wednesday, Sept. 23, he visits the White House, will tour some of the area in a Jeep popemobile, and will canonize Junipero Serra at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. On Sept. 24 he addresses Congress and flies to New York, where he will address the UN General Assembly on the 25th.
On Sept. 26, Pope Francis heads to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families, and the next day he’ll visit the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility.
The Office of Personnel Management is treating his D.C. visit similar to a snow day, with federal government offices open but telework encouraged.
But officials are concerned about security for the pope’s trip. The FAA has banned drone use in all three cities and surrounding areas for the duration of the pope’s trip.
“If you plan to attend any of the Papal visit events, please leave your drone at home,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “Anyone flying a drone within the designated restricted areas may be subject to civil and criminal charges.”
D.C. has notoriously restricted airspace, but in April a Florida mailman managed to land his gyrocopter on the West Lawn of the Capitol.
House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mike McCaul said the U.S. has “disrupted” one plot against Pope Francis’ visit to Washington, Philadelphia and New York this month, but he’s still “concerned.”
“I was briefed by the Secret Service in a classified setting. The pope is a very — I’m Catholic, by the way — he is a very passionate man. He likes to get out with the people. And with that comes a large security risk,” he said.
“We are monitoring very closely threats against the pope as he comes in to the United States. We have disrupted one particular case in particular. But as that date approaches, I think we’re all very — be very vigilant to protect him as he comes into the United States.”