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: 4886

Comment by cmiser on January 12, 2015 at 3:07pm

Below is our email to Senator Newell from earlier today:

Senator Newell,

 

I am sincerely disappointed to find out that a Colorado Senator has drafted a bill without considering the impacts or discussing the commercial interests of those Colorado companies involved including my veteran owned small business. I’d love to come by your review session but for some reason there was less than a weeks’ notice and I am currently in Belgium with a customer.  Why am I in Belgium?  Because the lack of FAA action to generate a small UAS rule and the politically motivated individual state laws that limit UAV operations are a hindrance to public safety and commercial use in the US.  In fact over 90% of my business last year was overseas and that is the only way we have survived as a Colorado based business.  

 

My main concern is that this bill will overly regulate operations that will be superseded when the FAA does decide to come out with rules.  If your bill does make it into law it will ensure that Colorado UAV companies will have to go through more Federal hoops than other states that do not have state regulation and hence we will fall behind and it will kill business in this state.

 

I’d also ask you to make a deal with us, the Colorado UAV industry, that you will actually come out and see actual UAS operations before you draft legislation that would hurt this amazing industry.   You might come to understand that no current UAV actually has facial recognition capabilities or biometric sensing.  We also can’t see through walls in case that was a concern.  We can do no more than any manned aircraft.  What we do accomplish is creating jobs for small businesses, saving lives, and saving money.  To give you a better understanding of what we have been involved with our technology please see the below examples.

 

ANTIPOACHING/SEARCH AND RESCUE

 

http://www.worldwildlife.org/stories/an-eye-in-the-sky-for-boots-on...

 

We’ve been to Africa 5 times last year in Namibia and Botswana to provide unmanned aircraft to Governments and Private Security entities to help in the Rhino and Elephant poaching epidemic.  We are currently developing specific technologies that will allow us to find poachers in the Africa bush.  These same technologies are directly applicable to being used in Colorado for search and rescues.

 

NATURAL DISASTERS

 

Remember the Colorado Floods.   We did near real time mapping of the damages in Longmont.  The information was provided to the Boulder Sheriff’s office to let them see what the extent of the damages were along the flooded StVrain and Left Hand Creek.  There were actually no manned aircraft assigned to do this mission along the entire front range during the entire event because they were busy in the mountains lifting people off roofs while we were providing damage assessment photography/maps.   We were also able to fly on two of the days after the floods that manned aircraft could not because of low visibility which is too dangerous for manned aircraft.

 

http://www.falconunmanned.com/falcon-uav-news/2013/9/14/-falcon-uav...

 

Or perhaps you might recall the landslide over in Mesa County earlier this year.  Fortunately we have an active COA with the Mesa County Sheriff’s office so when heard about the landslide we loaded up and headed over the pass to see if we could help.  Hours after the landslide we had mapped the lower third of the slide where three people lost their lives.  We were able to provide high resolution imagery that we scanned for remains.  We were also able to provide a 3D model of the landslide to calculate the height of the landslide over the mapped area.  They had a manned helicopter available but it didn’t have the capability to do any of the missions we were accomplishing. 

 

http://www.falconunmanned.com/falcon-uav-news/2014/5/28/-falcon-unm...

 

If you take anything away from this email I’d like you to understand that ANY legislation that limits operations of professional use of professional systems beyond federal regulations will hurt the growth of this industry in this state.  Instead of being a role model for the positive uses of UAVs and opening business operations in CO; your legislation is furthering the hysteria generated by the 24 hour news feed on military applications overseas that are completely unrealistic in the civil environment.

 

I return on 21 Jan and would be happy to demonstrate our systems to you and your colleagues so that you may truly understand what a civil UAV actually is and how their use is going generate jobs, save money, and save lives.

 

Respectfully,

Chris Miser

Falcon Unmanned

303-903-4571

chris.miser@falconunmanned.com

Skype: falconuav

www.falconunmanned.com

Comment by Patrick McKay on January 12, 2015 at 7:19pm
So I noticed the bill has now been officially introduced as SB15-059: http://www.leg.state.co.us/clics/clics2015a/csl.nsf/fsbillcont2/CF1...
 
 
As you can see, the bill has added two co-sponsors. The full sponsors list is now Newell, Lundberg, Guzman, and Lambert. We should all email Guzman and Lambert before the meeting as well.
Comment by technicus acityone on January 13, 2015 at 7:25am

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jp2cm4hAg04
- just try to ban it "aircraft" =)

Comment by Nikola Rabchevsky on January 13, 2015 at 9:25am

I had to laugh at the state's use of Word Perfect.

Comment by Shawn Barney on January 13, 2015 at 2:11pm

Co. will legalize pot, but ground drones? What's in that stuff they are smoking?

Comment by John Smith on January 13, 2015 at 7:54pm

You know I started to post the exact same thing yesterday then deleted it thinking I was a little too off the point but now that someone else raises it, BRAVO !!!. The state that legalizes Pot, has Drone hunting licenses in some counties, and now is trying to outlaw them...Who the heck is voting and putting these people running that state into office anyhow? 

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