AMA Rules on FPV and Autonomous Aircraft

The AMA rules may well end up being the only FAA approved rules for recreational use of an sUAS (AMA membership may become mandatory as well).

This is the AMA rule for FPV:

"First Person View (FPV) Operations

1. An FPV-equipped model must be flown by two AMA members utilizing
a buddy-box system. The pilot in command must be on the primary
transmitter, maintain visual contact, and be prepared to assume
control in the event of a problem.

2. The operational range of the model is limited to the pilot in command’s
visual line of sight as defined in the Official AMA National Model
Aircraft Safety Code (see Radio Control, item 9).

3. The flight path of model operations shall be limited to the designated
flying site and approved overfly area.

4. The model weight and speed shall be limited to a maximum of 10
pounds and 60 miles per hour."


This is their official stance on autonomous and semi-autonomous flight:

"Autonomous flight, as it pertains to RC operations under AMA’s programs, infers usage of a navigational system that allows the model to fly a pre-determined mission from point A to point B, point C, etc.  Autonomous flight is navigating a model aircraft autonomously."


Note that the last sentence is a tautology and not a definition. Autonomous is autonomous? Big help there. Hopefully this kind of language will be a red flag to the FAA that the AMA does not  know how to write the proper documentation required by law for CBO standards. They do not even know the definition of the centuries old word "autonomous".

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Comment by Paul Mather on January 12, 2011 at 12:53pm

By my estimation, the FAA and AMA can come up with all the rules and guidelines that they want. The only time it will make any difference is if there is an incident. I've never once been approached by someone from the FAA or AMA when I've been out flying. It's a non-issue.


Do you think local law enforcement are going to know anything about this? Not a chance. I know a local cop and he doesn't even know what the laws are for concealled carry.... which you'd think he'd need to know....


So I say go for it FAA and AMA! Pass all the rules you want.... I'm not going to follow them!

Comment by Sgt Ric on January 12, 2011 at 12:54pm

Off topic perhaps, but does anyone know what ever happened to the startup competition to AMA a few years back?... I think they were "Sport Flyers Assoc" or something like that.

A big media blitz for awhile and then, nothing!


Comment by Duane Brocious on January 12, 2011 at 1:05pm

You are correct, the FAA will be like the FCC. They only respond to incidents and reports.

Now what do you think will happen when an Anti-UAV AMA member sees you flying and calls the FAA?

You will be fined and your equipment confiscated. Seen it happen with truckers running linear amps and illegal Ham operators. Hurt someone or something and you are looking at felony charges.

If you think the new reg won't affect you I think you being far too naive. Many AMA members are out to get you, make no mistake about that. Even within the AMA, certain groups hate each other and try to get each other banned (3-D flying and PPP for example). Think they aren't going to make non-AMA members life miserable? They already closed many public flying sites to non-AMA flyers. Want to fly at Valley Forge Park? Better have paid the AMA and the VF AMA club or have the cops come get you.

Comment by Duane Brocious on January 12, 2011 at 1:11pm
As for cops, they will arrest first and let the courts figure it out. All anyone has to do is give them a copy of the Federal regs, have a little credibility (like a local AMA club member)  and tell them where you are.
Comment by Duane Brocious on January 12, 2011 at 1:22pm

Comment by Sgt Ric :

"Off topic perhaps, but does anyone know what ever happened to the startup competition to AMA a few years back?... I think they were "Sport Flyers Assoc" or something like that."

It seems, based on reading on several sites as well as the court documents, they were sued into bankruptcy by the AMA and the creator died from a heart attack at shich point they gave up. That was a few years ago.

As of now there is only USAMA which provides insurance for electric park fliers only. They are constantly bashed by AMA members but the AMA itself has not done much about them. USAMA has no formal rules.

Comment by Duane Brocious on January 12, 2011 at 2:11pm

Technically, the AMA currently bans even AR parrots as there is only one controller involved and no way to "buddy bos" it.

I never said anyone in the AMA actually new how to make rules. That is probably my biggest problem with giving them any authority or power. A rich guy can get an unsubstantiated rule made  for huge metal rotor blades and they can ban LOS FPV "toys". All they do is dream stuff up and write (to use the term loosely) a rule. No documentation, no investigation, just ask the insurance company of it will be covered.

As a professional in many disciplines I find the AMA to be little more than a bunch of amateurs pretending to be experts. As a member myself I am often ashamed at the lack of intelligence and abundance of of bias (at least) by the leadership of my/our AMA.


My biggest amazement is that the major manufacturers aren't going after this issue. If I owned the company making AR parrots (for example) I would have the AMA (at least) in court for restrict of trade right now, let alone if the regs come out the way the AMA wants them to..

Comment by Duane Brocious on January 12, 2011 at 2:52pm

The only rules for non-commercial sUAVs that may be addopted by the FAA will be the AMA rules. As such non-commercial autonomous systems of any kind will be illegal in the entire USA and any non-commercial use of FPV other than with a budy box will be illegal in the entire USA.

The way it may turn out is that the FAA will basically be giving the AMA sole control over non-commercial sUAVs.

I am afraid that far to many non-commercial people are burying their heads in the sand over this. This time next year many people will have to either throw their stuff away or become criminals.

Sort of like fireworks here in PA. You can buy and sell them legally but need a county permit to use them (good luck trying to get a permit). Set of fireworks in PA (many do) but you risk being arrested, your house and car searched and oll your fireworks confiscated and destroyed by the bomb squad (expect to pay the bill for that as well). BTW cops will arrest you even if you don;t use them because they have no clue and you will have to get a lawyer and go to court, then the judge will throw it out because it isn't illegal.

Is that the kind of problems we want with sUAVs?

Comment by Rory Paul on January 12, 2011 at 3:32pm

The FAA "forcing" the AMA to become the de facto governing body for model aviation in the US may be the end of the AMA as we know it. The AMA will then become accountable for any lack of rules and policy by which it's members operate. They will need to police their members and flying sites and make sure that safety rules are not only observed but enforced.  This will mean that a lot of the members that currently fly by the seats of their pants and cannot see their aircraft once it leaves the runway will be barred from flying. AMA membership will shrink and it will be taken over by a more progressive body that is able to see where the future of the hobby is going. The AMA unfortunately has shown the its lack of progressive thinking. They could have had a forward looking policy in place years ago to govern FPV and sUAS use and this could have served as a frame work for FAA policy. 








Comment by Duane Brocious on January 12, 2011 at 4:01pm

In my opinion, the AMA, by looking out for themselves, instead of the entire hobby community, has made the situation far worse than if they did nothing at all. They could have suggested removing section 2 (AMA only) and recommended some changes to section 3 for everyone. As it stands, my perception is that the AMA is delaying the whole process to make their ill written rules into a proper, Govt acceptable form including statistical analysis, engineering research etc.. The current AMA rules are nothing more than dreamed up by a handful of amateurs over the last 40 years. I am sure the FAA understands that they have never overseen anything outside Muncie and that is one of the requirements as a CBO. If they can't do that with current membership (140K) how on earth can they do that for the entire USA?

Nope, I hope the FAA fixes section 3, deletes section 2 and throws the AMA "under the bus" the way the AMA is trying to do to many of its members and the rest of the USA's hobbyists.

I am a member of the AMA and would like to see it change. Unfortunately when there is only the incumbents' names on the ballot, the same amateurs will keep running it into the ground. In order to get on the ballot the candidate must be approved by the current leadership. Sound like the former USSR ?

Comment by Duane Brocious on January 12, 2011 at 4:53pm

It seems to me that the problem has been that for the past six years or so, there has not be a single indicidual involved in the rule making process that was in favor of recreational use of autonomous or FPV applications.

The Autonomous and FPV hobbyists were thrown under the bus by everyone except the FAA! Section 3 would allow autonomous and FPV flight, albeit with restrictions. The FAA never even hinted at banning recreational Auto nor FPV. So much for the big bad FAA, they were the only ones fighting for us.


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