The AMA has released (I think they are still preliminary) a set of rules and guidelines for operation of FPV models and for Autopiloted models.

The regulations can be seen here:

Most of the regulations are reasonable and are specifically concerned with safety.

Flight within VLOS (visual line of sight) is no surprise as it is a mainstay of all model RC flight as is true for staying below 400 feet.

Non-commercial use only is of course still in there as it is already strongly required by the FAA.

The FPV requirement for a "buddy" may be a bit controversial but will garner points with the FAA regarding safety.

The requirement for a weight of less than 15 pounds and a top speed of less than 70 mph for aircraft that will use way point navigation is new and also controversial, but also clearly a safety issue.

Most of the rules are reasonable, or at least understandable and are certainly dedicated to safety of us and of the public.

I do have considerable misgivings about one section though:

a) The use of imaging technology on radio control model aircraft with the capability of
obtaining high-resolution photographs and/or video, or using any types of sensors, for the
collection, retention, or dissemination of aerial surveillance data/information on individuals,
homes, businesses, or property, is strictly prohibited by the AMA unless written expressed
permission is obtained from the individuals, property owners, or managers."

The AMA's entire purview and reason for being is ensuring the safety of the public and it's participants not of defining civil rights or civil law beyond that scope.

Certainly rights to privacy are a very important issue, but they are already defined in law and it is not the AMA's charter or right to define or restrict them separately from that.

Commercial use is already prohibited and Civil law already defines rights to privacy.

As the FAA's charter is to insure public and flight safety and National Security, this issue is probably not even in their purview either (except as regards National Security).

Get the AMA out of trying to act like our betters and force us to live to their own artificial and arbitrary standard.

We are the AMA, get that lousy regulation out of our Club.

Please feel free to Email the AMA regarding this regulation or any concerns you have with the others, their EMail address is in the document I provided the link for above.

Those of us who are on this site have absolutely the most stake in the coming regulation fest of the AMA and FAA, so it would be in all our best interests to make ourselves heard now before we end up watching our hobby get blasted into the toilet. 

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  • You know, this is supposed to be about what is happening now, every time one of these FAA pages comes up it devolves into whether the FAA has a right to enforce it's regulations and how we choose to interpret them.

    As a private pilot, let me assure you, the FAA has the strength of the legal system on it's side.

    Try going outside the 12 mile limit without a correctly filed FAA flight plan and watch what they do to you.

    They can and will take your plane, they can throw you in jail and they can charge you for the 2 or 3 jets they scrambled to intercept you and that can cost you everything you own.

    An FAA regulation does have the force of law and they have really effective legal consul that costs a lot more than you can afford.

    And generally speaking they are about as sympathetic as the Internal Revenue Department - Not!

    The question isn't whether the 400 foot rule - suggestion - law is correct or negotiable, the question is when the FAA does decide what to do about this whole UAV thing whether we are going to have a hobby or not any more or whether they are going to regulate it into virtual non-existence.

    They haven't produced any laws yet and are dragging their feet because it is a no win situation for them, they don't have the budget to police it and they can only lose no matter what laws - rules - suggestions they come up with.

    If it is based on their ability to police it they will simply outlaw everything.

    Literally, that probably won't fly, so they are doing the next best thing - dragging their feet.

    This is standard operating procedure for every business or government organization in America under similar circumstances.

    In the end, if we don't step forward and actually help them solve this problem for everybody's best interests, it is likely that their actions will not serve our best interests at all.

    Be a lot less concerned about the semantics of who has the right to do what and more concerned about getting on the right side of and in front of this now.

    As far as the AMA and the FAA the other issue is this whole privacy thing, until now it has been neither of their mandate, business or interest to try and regulate that and to my mind at least they have no business nor right to even go there, it simply isn't their job and in no way relates to their operational parameters.

    It is a giant political boondoggle and the AMAs or even the FAAs projection into it is nothing but a preemptive attempt to presume on our basic freedoms.

    Existing laws already cover those rights entirely and if the existing laws prove inadequate then it is up to those same normal legislative bodies to provide revised laws that are adequate.

    The FAA can't begin to police the normal UAV operations and the whole privacy thing is a much bigger boondoggle still.

    And the AMA will do nothing but lose credibility completely by trying to presume to do so.


  • Moderator

    Slightly off topic here but I found this wording interesting. Taken from AMA document #560 'Radio Controlled Model Aircraft Operation Utilizing Failsafe, Stabilization and Autopilot Systems' (attached):

    a) If your radio system lacks failsafe capability, consider using programmable digital servos
    or auxiliary failsafe modules. In the event of a radio signal failure these components will
    activate desired safe servo settings or an autopilot for return to base/launch (RTL).
    b) When using an autopilot system the “return to launch” (RTL) feature should be
    programmed to return the aircraft to a safe location and safely terminate the flight should manual control of the aircraft be lost. When using RTL, pay particular attention to the manufacturer’s throttle recommendations to prevent stalling. The use of stabilization systems is recommended when flying FPV to improve flight stability and video quality.
    d) Pilots usually choose to incorporate stabilization and autopilot systems for model aircraft
    flying to enhance flight performance, correct bad tendencies of the model aircraft, maintain stability in windy weather, establish precision heading holds for takeoffs/landings, flight training for novice pilots, create a steady flight platform for cameras, and generally just to make an airplane easier and safer to fly.
    e) When purchasing stabilization and autopilot systems, always try to select quality equipment
    from reputable dealers, ensure for compatibility with other onboard systems, and install components according to manufacturers’ instructions.

    Really improve video quality? Is the AMA really worried about my video quality?? LOL

    Also I find these two statements to be in disagreement with one another, which disturbs me because it is a pretty fundamental issue. The first excerpt is from the AMA Safety Code AMA Document # 105 (attached) and the second is from AMA Document #540-c FAA Advisory Circular AC 91-57:

    AMA Document #105

    '2. Model aircraft pilots will:
    (a) Yield the right of way to all man carrying aircraft.
    (b) See and avoid all aircraft and a spotter must be used when appropriate. (AMA Document #540-D-See and Avoid Guidance.)
    (c) Not fly higher than approximately 400 feet above ground level within three (3) miles of an airport, without notifying the airport operator.
    (d) Not interfere with operations and traffic patterns at any airport, heliport or seaplane base except where there is a mixed use agreement.
    (e) Not exceed a takeoff weight, including fuel, of 55 pounds unless in compliance with the AMA Large Model Aircraft program. (AMA Document 520-A)
    (f) Ensure the aircraft is identified with the name and address or AMA number of the owner on the inside or affixed to the outside of the model aircraft.
    (This does not apply to model aircraft flown indoors).
    (g) Not operate aircraft with metal-blade propellers or with gaseous boosts except for helicopters operated under the provisions of AMA Document #555.
    (h) Not operate model aircraft while under the influence of alcohol or while using any drug which could adversely affect the pilot’s ability to safely control
    the model.
    (i) Not operate model aircraft carrying pyrotechnic devices which explode or burn, or any device which propels a projectile or drops any object that
    creates a hazard to persons or property.
     Free Flight fuses or devices that burn producing smoke and are securely attached to the model aircraft during flight.
     Rocket motors (using solid propellant) up to a G-series size may be used provided they remain attached to the model during flight. Model rockets
    may be flown in accordance with the National Model Rocketry Safety Code but may not be launched from model aircraft.
     Officially designated AMA Air Show Teams (AST) are authorized to use devices and practices as defined within the Team AMA Program
    Document (AMA Document #718).
    (j) Not operate a turbine-powered aircraft, unless in compliance with the AMA turbine regulations. (AMA Document #510-A).
    3. Model aircraft will not be flown in AMA sanctioned events, air shows or model demonstrations unless:
    (a) The aircraft, control system and pilot skills have successfully demonstrated all maneuvers intended or anticipated prior to the specific event.
    (b) An inexperienced pilot is assisted by an experienced pilot.
    4. When and where required by rule, helmets must be properly worn and fastened. They must be OSHA, DOT, ANSI, SNELL or NOCSAE approved or
    comply with comparable standards.'

    AMA Document # 540-c FAA Advisory Circular AC 91-57

    a. Select an operating site that is of sufficient distance from populated areas. The selected
    site should be away from noise sensitive areas such as parks, schools, hospitals, churches, etc.
    b. Do not operate model aircraft in the presence of spectators until the aircraft is
    successfully flight tested and proven airworthy.
    c. Do not fly model aircraft higher than 400 feet above the surface. When flying aircraft
    within 3 miles of an airport, notify the airport operator, or when an air traffic facility is located at
    the airport, notify the control tower, or flight service station.
    d. Give right of way to, and avoid flying in the proximity of, full-scale aircraft. Use
    observers to help if possible.
    e. Do not hesitate to ask for assistance from any airport traffic control tower or flight
    service station concerning compliance with these standards.

    Notice the punctuation difference in the two statements? In the AMA Safety Code (and even more prominently in other AMA documents) it sounds as if you CAN fly above 400 ft AGL when you are not within 3 miles of an airport and then all that is needed is to notify the control operator at the airport. The FAA Advisory makes two separate statements that clearly say that flight of model aircraft is never allowed above 400 feet and that if you are within 3 miles of an airport you must notify the airport operator. I know some people are going to argue this but I think the punctuation in this document is pretty clear.

    How about this Public Law Document #112-95 February14, 2012 (sorry ran out of attachments) Section 336 a sub paragraph 5

    3692578665?profile=originalSo which is it, can I fly above 400 ft AGL or not? Do I need to notify the Airport Control Operator when I am within 3 miles or 5? They've got us coming and going!

    Just my 2 cents.


    Nathaniel ~KD2DEY




  • I don't do all my flying under AMA rules either, but this is about our freedom to fly at all and whether we like it or not, the FAA is shortly going to be establishing a pile of new LAWS that regulate what we can and cannot do.

    And pretty much left to their own devices the FAA had already strongly indicated that most of what we do every day would no be illegal, too bad that's that. Fly a plane go to jail.

    In February 2012 The House of Representatives, Senate and President signed a bill authorizing the FAA that provides an exclusion for Model Aircraft (Section 336) which pretty clearly excludes model aircraft operated VLOS and below 400 feet for non commercial operations weighing under 55 pounds.

    From all accounts the FAA is only loosely bound by this and is in the process of making a new set of laws for all unmanned aircraft in the US that provide for safe and secure operations.

    The AMA is trying to convince the FAA that it should be the arbiter and overseer of these new laws and that all operations of model aircraft must be carried out under their supervision.

    Clearly a 2 edged sword, but the reality is that without the AMA our hobby might be completely gutted by the FAA.

    So, clearly as Oliver says, whether you like the AMA or not they may be our only legal way of proceeding and it is important that we see that they do a competent job of it and do not overstep or completely wander off in the wrong direction (as I certainly believe is the case when it comes to matters of rights to privacy which have nothing at all to do with safety).

  • Do what I've done for the past 25+ years... just go outside and fly your aircraft. You don't need to belong to any "clubs" or organizations to do so. The heck with them. Yeah, I know many fields require you to belong to them, but they don't own all the land in this world.

  • Here's a letter I just emailed this morning to the AMA Advanced Flight Systems Committee ( with a copy to the AMA President (

    Dear Advanced Flight Systems Committee:

    I am an AMA and local AMA club member. Thank you for your work on these critical matters. As a model fixed-wing and model rotorcraft pilot (and incidentally as the holder of a conventional pilot's license) who has been experimenting with various advanced flight systems for a couple of years or so, I am largely in agreement with the contents of 550-560 as presented in , with one very strong exception, that being the "privacy safeguard" section (identical within each of the documents).

    First of all, I find no indication whatsoever within that section that it has anything to do with safety, which as far as I can see is supposedly the sole purpose of these documents. Including this off-topic material puts the AMA in the position of attempting to regulate an ethical issue, which as far as I know is not part of the AMA mission. If this is included in response to political pressure, it is a mistake. A proper response to such pressure would be to state that the subject is simply outside the bounds of the organization.  At the most you might include a statement that applicable laws regarding privacy must be followed. That should be enough to satisfy any lawmaker, and to appease the public (if that's what you have in mind here).  

    The language of this section is much too inclusive. I am an active hobby photographer, and aerial photography is a major part of why I'm involved with R/C in the first place. I enjoy taking and sharing aerial photographs. I do so in public places where it is safe and legal to fly and in which individuals, under long-established legal precedents, have no expectations of privacy, so in this regard I'm acting in exactly the same way as someone taking pictures on foot or from a car, or for that matter from the window of an airliner. Under this section, I would be in violation taking exactly the same photograph (from a low hover) that I am entitled to take by hand. I would be in violation if my aerial  photograph of, say, a waterfall in a national forest included a distant hiker or a house on a distant ridge. I would be in violation taking a shot of my son surfing, without getting a written authorization from him! 

    I suggest that to meet the requirement of equal treatment under the law, any attempt to throttle the taking of pictures of people or property in circumstances in which there is no legal expectation of privacy would have to be inclusive of all methods and all photographers (so from Google Earth on down through conventional aerial photography, stoplight and store surveillance cameras etc., all the way to people taking snapshots of their neighbors' Christmas decorations). Is this something the AMA wants to get (or should be) involved in?    

    Aerial photography, both commercial and as a hobby/art, has been a driving force behind aviation since the beginning. I don't know who first put a camera on a model aircraft, but it was certainly long ago and today there are a whole lot of people enjoying this side of the hobby and it has become a major area of cutting-edge innovation and creativity. The AMA should be encouraging responsible aerial photography, rather than trying to in effect outlaw it. Educate, don't legislate and you'll gain support rather than lose members (such as myself, if you adopt this ill-conceived, badly written section).


This reply was deleted.


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