Draft Legislation Would Ban All RC Aircraft in Colorado

I have recently learned of a piece of draft legislation soon to be introduced in the Colorado State Senate by Senators Linda Newell and Kevin Lundberg (who I interned for in high school ironically), which if passed as worded would effectively ban all recreational and commercial use of unmanned/remote-control aircraft in Colorado. The full text of the draft bill, which has not yet been formally introduced, is available here.

There will be a stakeholders meeting this Tuesday, January 13th, at 2PM in room SCR356, at the Colorado State Capital building to discuss the bill. Anyone in Colorado who has an interest in drones/UAVs/model aircraft should try to attend.

What the bill does is incorporate a vague and flawed interpretation of current FAA UAS regulations into state law. The new law would apply to ALL uses of unmanned aircraft of any size, whether commercial, hobbyist, or even toy class RC models. Because the bill's requirements are essentially impossible to meet, it would have the effect of prohibiting all uses of unmanned aircraft in Colorado, and make criminals of everyone from traditional RC hobbyists, to FPV enthusiasts, to commercial aerial photographers, to a 12 year-old operating a 5oz toy helicopter in his backyard.

The relevant portion of the bill states:

41-6-102. Nongovernmental use of unmanned aerial vehicles.
(1) A PRIVATE PERSON WHO USES AN UNMANNED AERIAL VEHICLE SHALL
MEET THE EQUIPMENT REQUIREMENTS APPLICABLE TO THE CLASS OF
AIRSPACE WITHIN WHICH THE UNMANNED AERIAL VEHICLE IS OPERATED.

(2) A PRIVATE PERSON WHO USES AN UNMANNED AERIAL VEHICLE
FOR RECREATIONAL USE SHALL COMPLY WITH ALL INSTRUMENT FLIGHT
RULES, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO FLYING THE UNMANNED AERIAL
VEHICLE WITHIN THE OPERATOR'S SIGHT, FOR NO FARTHER THAN THREE
MILES, FOR NO MORE THAN FOUR HUNDRED FEET ABOVE THE GROUND,
DURING DAYLIGHT, INSIDE UNCONTROLLED AIRSPACE, AND AT LEAST FIVE
MILES FROM AN AIRPORT OR OTHER LOCATION WITH AVIATION ACTIVITIES.

AN UNMANNED AERIAL VEHICLE THAT IS USED FOR RECREATIONAL
PURPOSES SHALL NOT USE AUTONOMOUS OPERATIONS.

(3) IF A PERSON OR ENTITY WANTS TO USE AN UNMANNED AERIAL
VEHICLE FOR RECREATIONAL OR COMMERCIAL USE OR FOR UNMANNED
AERIAL VEHICLE RESEARCH, THE PERSON MUST OBTAIN AN EXPERIMENTAL
AIRWORTHINESS CERTIFICATE OR CERTIFICATE OF WAIVER OR
AUTHORIZATION FROM THE FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION.

From this language it is quite clear the senators have absolutely no idea what they are talking about and have no understanding of aviation law. None of the requirements they mention are part of Instrument Flight Rules, which in fact require a person to hold a pilots license with an instrument rating, and impose numerous requirements such as filing flight plans and having certain kinds of navigational equipment on board the aircraft.

I cannot imagine this is what the Senators intend. Nor do I think they realize that the FAA waivers they are requiring are not even available for recreational users as Congress has expressly prohibited the FAA from regulating hobbyist model aircraft and therefore cannot require any kind of licensing or certification for them. And since waivers have been issued to only a handful of commercial UAS operators and impose excessive restrictions that make them utterly useless for most small businesses, this bill would force dozens of innovative small Colorado businesses that are already using unmanned aircraft to shut down.

The line of sight requirement and the prohibition on autonomous operation would prohibit FPV and most autopilot systems built-in to many popular models, and would ironically make RC aircraft less safe, since automated return-to-home systems would be prohibited. Prohibiting all RC aircraft within 5 miles of an airport would also shut down several established AMA model airfields in Colorado, including one at Cherry Creek State Park in Denver which is inside Centennial Airport's class D airspace and is only about 3 miles from the end of the main runways. 

It is critical that as many UAV enthusiasts as possible contact Senators Newell and Lundberg between now and Tuesday when the stakeholders meeting will be held, so that we can convince them to remove this disastrous language from the bill before it is introduced. You can email them at kevin@kevinlundberg.com, and linda.newell.senate@gmail.com.

Since the FAA has exclusive jurisdiction over airspace regulation, there is absolutely no reason why non-governmental use of unmanned aircraft should be regulated by state law, and any such law will be automatically preempted by federal regulations anyway. We need to act fast and hard on this to discourage future attempts by legislators to interfere with our hobby and livelihood, and to educate them about this safe and beneficial activity. As an example, you can read the email I wrote to Sen. Lundberg here.

Views: 4801

Comment by Andrew Rabbitt on January 11, 2015 at 6:53pm

I think Senators Newell and Lundberg desperately need the help of an English teacher.

Comment by Gary McCray on January 11, 2015 at 7:09pm

The thing I most hate about being involved with this really interesting field is stupid people who think that what they have to say is important, relevant or worthwhile.

It is a real shame that our government seems to be the prime repository for them.

Comment by Monroe King on January 11, 2015 at 7:21pm

Any of the States can and will make laws about drones regardless of the ones put in place by the FAA. That is going to be a fact and some states will be more drone friendly and others will not. Not only that but cities will also influence the drone community by making their own ordinances.

This is why the community (droners) need an entity to fight for them. In other words droners are going to have to dig into their pockets and support an entity to fight for them.

Or rights will be lost without even a fight. Individuals speaking for what they want in so few numbers have little voice in the goings on.

Without lobbyist and support in the legal system there just are not enough droners to make up the difference.

I know I sound like a broken record by now.

Yes Google and Amazon and companies like that have commercial interest but they have commercial interest and not the hobbyist in mind. So they are not help to you. 


Moderator
Comment by Gary Mortimer on January 11, 2015 at 11:11pm

@Andrew I thought that as well, my grandma is shocking in forum replies generally but when I read that I was channeling my inner high school English teacher who was in the habit of throwing chalk board erasers at folks for words like WANTS.

Rocketman is right about states be able to do little. The FAA have already told a few off for trying to make rules they are not entitled to.

Nothing to stop them letting folks fly from their parks though.

RCAPA tried to be the effective voice for us but folks thought they were doom saying when they said this was coming in 2007. Looks like the community should not have ignored them.

Comment by Andrew Rabbitt on January 11, 2015 at 11:26pm

Indeed Gary.  The problem with the modern technology is that iPads are much more expensive to lob at errant students!

On the basis that the best defence is attack, Colorado UAV users should be writing to the remainder of their representatives making clear to them what a crock this bill is being full of mindless knee-jerkery, scaremongering and other forms of police-statery.  I offer Section 3 of the bill specifically as evidence for this claim.

Comment by Muhammad Al-Rawi on January 12, 2015 at 7:32am
I imagine sparkfun would have some interest in opposing this because of AVC.
Comment by Rob_Lefebvre on January 12, 2015 at 8:09am

Not anymore. The next competition will not have outdoor aerial competition.

Comment by Todd Harper on January 12, 2015 at 8:09am

I have emailed both Senators Newell and Lundberg with my own thoughts about this draft and the probable negative implications it will bring about.

If I could, I would attend this meeting at the Capital building if nothing else, just to hear them vocally read aloud what they have written in the proposed bill: 41-6-102.

One would think that upon reading it themselves they would question what it states.

ToddH.

Comment by Nikola Rabchevsky on January 12, 2015 at 1:30pm

Sounds to me like some folks in Colorado are too busy smoking their tax revenue.

Comment by Patrick McKay on January 12, 2015 at 1:41pm
Here's the latest from Vic Moss of Colorado Aerial Media Pros:

Here's the latest.

We're good with the UAV's, so we don't need anymore.

So far, the following organization and/or gov't agencies are on record as opposing this legislation: AMA, AUVSI, UAS Colorado, CAMP, Colorado Competitive Council, Metro Denver Office of Economic Development, and pretty much anyone with common sense. I'm also sure many more that I don't know of.

I'd be willing to be the farm that this bill will either die tomorrow, be tabled, or sent back to the authors for a rewrite.

Either way, this fight isn't over. I firmly believe this is just the beginning of what will become the whipping post for our industry. I'm looking at this as a dress rehearsal for things to come. We've been given a great opportunity to "practice" killing legislation on one that would never have the chance to see the light of day anyway.

Does this mean we shouldn't come to the meeting tomorrow? Absolutely not! Even if this bill is DOA, showing up with mass numbers will put that image in their heads when they try to present more legislation in the future.

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