FAA issues notice clarifying legal model aircraft use, bans FPV goggles?

Here's the reg. On a quick read, it appears that the FAA is taking a hard line on drones in commercial faming and FPV flight with googles. Only Hobby and Recreation is allowed without a COA

Regarding FPV, this doesn't sound good:

By definition, a model aircraft must be “flown within visual line of sight of the person operating the aircraft.” Based on the plain language of the statute, the FAA interprets this requirement to mean that: (1) the aircraft must be visible at all times to the operator; (2) that the operator must use his or her own natural vision (which includes vision corrected by standard eyeglasses or contact lenses) to observe the aircraft; and (3) people other than the operator may not be used in lieu of the operator for maintaining visual line of sight. Under the criteria above, visual line of sight would mean that the operator has an unobstructed view of the model aircraft. To ensure that the operator has the best view of the aircraft, the statutory requirement would preclude the use of vision-enhancing devices, such as binoculars, night vision goggles, powered vision magnifying devices, and goggles designed to provide a “first-person view” from the model.

Footnote 2: The FAA is aware that at least one community-based organization permits “first person view” (FPV)  operations during which the hobbyist controls the aircraft while wearing goggles that display images transmitted from a camera mounted in the front of the model aircraft. While the intent of FPV is to provide a simulation of what a pilot would see from the flight deck of a manned aircraft, the goggles may obstruct an operator’s vision, thereby preventing the operator from keeping the model aircraft within his or her visual line of sight at all times.

-----------------

Press release here:

For Immediate Release

June 23, 2014
Contact: Les Dorr, Jr. or Alison Duquette 
Phone: (202) 267-3883


Agency issues interpretation of  2012 Reauthorization Law, restates authority to take enforcement action against hazardous operations.

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) today published a Federal Register notice on its interpretation of the statutory special rules for model aircraft in the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. The guidance comes after recent incidents involving the reckless use of unmanned model aircraft near airports and involving large crowds of people.

Compliance with these rules for model aircraft operators has been required since the Act was signed on February 14, 2012, and the explanation provided today does not change that fact. The FAA is issuing the notice to provide clear guidance to model operators on the “do’s and don’ts” of flying safely in accordance with the Act and to answer many of the questions it has received regarding the scope and application of the rules.

“We want people who fly model aircraft for recreation to enjoy their hobby – but to enjoy it safely,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “At DOT, we often say that safety is a shared responsibility, so to help, we are providing additional information today to make sure model aircraft operators know exactly what’s expected of them.”

In the notice, the FAA restates the law’s definition of “model aircraft,” including requirements that they not interfere with manned aircraft, be flown within sight of the operator and be operated only for hobby or recreational purposes. The agency also explains that model aircraft operators flying within five miles of an airport must notify the airport operator and air traffic control tower.

The FAA reaffirms that the Act’s model aircraft provisions apply only to hobby or recreation operations and do not authorize the use of model aircraft for commercial operations. The notice gives examples of hobby or recreation flights, as well as examples of operations that would not meet that definition.

“We have a mandate to protect the American people in the air and on the ground, and the public expects us to carry out that mission,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. 

The law is clear that the FAA may take enforcement action against model aircraft operators who operate their aircraft in a manner that endangers the safety of the national airspace system. In the notice, the FAA explains that this enforcement authority is designed to protect users of the airspace as well as people and property on the ground.

The FAA will be working with its inspectors and model aircraft operators across the country to ensure they give standard information to the public on how to satisfy these statutory requirements and avoid endangering the safety of the nation’s airspace.

The FAA is also developing a plan to work with the law enforcement community to help them understand the FAA’s rules for unmanned aircraft systems, as well as the special statutory rules for model aircraft operators, so they can more effectively protect public safety.

The agency wants the public to know how and when to contact the FAA regarding safety concerns with UAS operations. You can visit the Agency’sAviation Safety Hotline website or call 1-866-835-5322, Option 4.

While today’s notice is immediately effective, the agency welcomes comments from the public which may help further inform its analysis. The comment period for the notice will close 30 days from publication in the Federal Register.  >View the notice

See Section 336 of the 2012 FAA Modernization and Reform Act.

Views: 22756

Comment by Acorn on June 23, 2014 at 2:30pm
It doesn't say you can't use a monitor with FPV

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on June 23, 2014 at 2:32pm

Acorn: Good point. I'll edit to note that. 

Comment by Rob_Lefebvre on June 23, 2014 at 2:37pm

Ha, so now the FAA is saying that the AMA's regulations on FPV flying are illegal.  You know, because having a spotter as required by AMA is just not safe enough.

They're just regulating themselves in irrelevancy.  Nobody cares about FAA regulations unless they are reasonable, and/or they actually enforce them.

Comment by Rob_Lefebvre on June 23, 2014 at 2:38pm

And it's cute that they say goggles "may" obstruct the pilot's view of the aircraft.  Really?  They *may*?

Comment by Timothy Clemans on June 23, 2014 at 3:03pm

What about FPV with the Moverio which is transparent https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fZkZ4FONiiw

Comment by Gary McCray on June 23, 2014 at 4:01pm

In all cases in it's "interpretation" of the model aircraft exemption the FAA has chosen without any particular justification to expand the intent of the exemption to provide as restrictive a set of their own oversite as possible.

There is absolutely no reason to assume that any of those interpretations are in fact legal, binding or in fact even remotely justifiable.

It is simply the FAA giving itself all the power it wants by reinterpreting the law in the way that is most favorable to their own desires.

Kind of like secular bible interpretation - you can make it say anything you want with clever rhetoric.

In particular their clear interpretation of LOS relies on the entirely fallacious concept that it automatically - intrinsically or by some act of divine guidance has to be continuous actually unimpeded at all times by the user.

Nonsense, nobody ever said that and anyone who has ever flown behind a tree is immediately in violation of that concept.

Goggles can be cast aside immediately exactly the same as looking up from an FPV monitor with exactly the same level of disorientation as to where the model actually is.

But we have been flying planes for a long time now and are pretty familiar with the concept of orientation whether it is where our plane is going or where it is.

This is a skill to be learned, not a taboo to be banished.

And the FAAs desire to interpret LOS the way the have is basically poppycock - sunglasses would be in clear violation according to their interpretation.

Comment by Gary McCray on June 23, 2014 at 4:09pm

It is clear that by the release of this statement, the FAAs sole purpose is going to be to minimize our capabilities and endeavor as much as they possibly can.

It is probably a clear sign also that what can be expected from the commercial side is going to be equally draconian and will favor only deep pocket corporations and existing military developers at all.

The FAA has made it real simple, they are not our friend.

Comment by Brent on June 23, 2014 at 4:33pm
Clearly some of this heavy handed approach is in response to a very public FPV incident in which the feds were made to look less then competent in enforcing rules governing model aircraft operations.
It was only a matter of time before a reckless operator looking for YT fame would cross the line, now a wonderful form of flight will be off limits for anyone wanting to comply with FAA regs.
Comment by Stephen Gloor on June 23, 2014 at 5:23pm

What is taking your FAA so long.  There are plenty of examples of working UAV laws from around the world.  We have a very successful one here in Australia that they could just copy and implement next week.  Ours works, allows commercial use, the licensed operators are working and they have not killed anyone yet.

Can't the FAA give the CAA a quick call?  The US is not THAT different from Australian airspace.  We adopted most of your rules.

Comment by Philip Giacalone on June 23, 2014 at 5:39pm

Yes, it appears the FAA is going to make FPV illegal.

The key words from the document that pertain to FPV:
...aircraft must be “flown within the visual line of sight of the person operating the aircraft,”... the operator must be able to view the aircraft at all times. 

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