Screen-Shot-2014-07-09-at-10.02.19-PM.png?width=400This is just a copy-paste of a new Forbes article:

Users of consumer drones and model aircraft aren’t afraid to share their ideas and imagery in social media.  Surprisingly though, these users have been largely silent when it comes to protecting their hobby from pending Federal Aviation Administration rules — rules that threaten to curtail many uses of the exciting new devices.

Drone users are oftentimes quick to comment when a government official with the FAA or the National Park Service tells them they can’t use their cool toy somewhere.  Realtors, photographers and other potential commercial users have expressed dismay over the FAA’s backwards regulations which allow flying for fun, but not flying for work.

Drone users are also good at organizing to share everything from photos to techniques.  The DIY Drones user group has more than 55,000 members.  The Quadcopters Facebook group has over 2,400 members, and the UAV Legal News and Discussion group on Facebook has more than 1,000 members.  DJI, the maker of the popular DJI Phantom quadcopter has over 72,000 Twitter followers and 3D Robotics has more than 13,000.  Those two companies combined sell tens of thousands of consumer drones each month, who knows how many more Parrot, the maker of the AR.Drone and dozens of other manufacturers sell.  Some blog posts on drones receive hundreds of comments, and thousands of social media shares.  Drone users are certainly active in some places on the web, but they have dedicated very little of their attention towards influencing public policy.

As a supporter of the nascent industry and the decades old hobby, I’m baffled by the lack of pushback against the FAA by otherwise very vocal people.  With just 15 days left before the FAA’s comment period on model aircraft rules closes, tens of thousands of drone users have been largely silent.  For those unfamiliar with FAA regulations, a little background is necessary.  On June 23, 2014 the FAA released their Interpretation of the Special Rule For Model Aircraft.  That interpretation is open for public comment until July 25, 2014.  Once the comment period closes, the FAA will consider public input (and the degree of public interest) and finalize their interpretation.  The game is largely over at that point, as there will be very few opportunities (short of lawsuits) for the drone community to push back against the FAA’s rule.  The stakes are high, yet to date a mere 2,811 comments have been received on the proposed regulation.

FAA regulations of the consumer drone industry, while controversial in social media, have drawn relatively few public comments.

That’s a paltry number.  Brendan Schulman, a lawyer specializing in drones says ”The FAA’s Notice is dense and hard to navigate, and that might be discouraging comments.  The main reason hobbyists should be very concerned is on the last page, where the FAA says that despite Congress’s intent to exclude model aircraft from future regulation, the FAA feels that any part of its existing regulations ‘may apply to model aircraft operations, depending on the particular circumstances.’  That means the agency is poised to arbitrarily tell hobbyists what conduct may be subject to fines — but only after the fact.”

That’s a significant threat to the emergent industry.  While not everyone know’s how to comment on a regulation, other regulations that impact less tech savvy audiences have garnered far more comments.  For example, a regulation having to do with snakes has over 50,000 comments and a petition to amend the standard identity of milk received over 40,000 comments.  It’s simple to submit a comment at, so perhaps the drone users are waiting until the deadline to file their comments.  But given the number of users, and their passion for the hobby, it’s shocking that the number of comments received thus far is so low.

The lack of response is not due to a lack of media attention or advocacy group organizing.  The FAA’s new policy guidelines were widely covered in traditional and non-traditional media (I have stories on it here).  Moreover, the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA), the 1650,000 member group representing model aircraft users posted a call for action to their blog and sent emails to their members.  They even provided their members with instructions on how to respond to the regulation and posted a detailed guide explaining the organization’s concerns.

The AMA has valid reasons to be concerned, “Since 1981, the FAA has said it is fine to fly a model aircraft if you are more than three miles from an airport, and just to notify the airport operator if you are closer.” Schulman explains, “Now, the FAA is demanding that hobbyists request permission in advance from air traffic control if they are within five miles of an airport.  In some places in the country, like New York City or Florida, those five miles cover vast areas where people live, and apparently would even apply to toy airplanes in back yards or playgrounds.” But even assuming every comment on was from an AMA member, that would still only account for 1.6% of the AMA’s membership.  Silence abounds.

Where are the drone users and model aircraft enthusiasts who have been so vocal in social media?  Is it possible they ? It’s a legitimate concern, just consider the fact that the FAA has spent the last few months cracking down on realtors.  Given such an enforcement climate, it’s understandable that some commercial users would not want to reveal their identity by commenting on a regulation.  Whatever the reason, what’s clear is that with just two weeks until the deadline, most drone users are sitting out this regulatory fight.

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  • hah.. I commented about the long reach of Citizens United & the First amendment , Tsunami of legality about to hit the FAA for the commercial vs hobby interest distinction because of Citizens United/ENG and religious institution usage of drones.


  • He said..." scan eagle has a 99% capture of those aircraft" hmm I have 100% capture of a multicopter. "The FAA must ensure the safety of all airspace both manned and unmanned. Well 90% of us using these for AP are following FAA guidelines for RC aircraft! Staying away from airports and below 400 feet blah blah following those rules we are further being regulated just because we want to use our helo for AP profit! That's what this is really about!

    Normal helicopter pilots whether it be gas or electric and fixed wing pilots have been using their RC vehicles for AP for a very long time! Now that we rearranged the motor layout to have four motors and props controlling flight and giving possibly a better hover we are being regulated and called DRONES! Or is it the fact that we are making profit from it that we are being regulated and they are not making a penny from it? Therefore they must make a regulation or rule saying that we will have to pay them to inspect our aircraft get a license or some other means that will come about, just so the FAA is getting some type of money from the RC community that wish to use their aircraft for profit.

    At 49 mintues he even says it...that if you are using it for recreational purposes you follow one set of regulations. Possibly those that are already set.

    And at 49:20 that if you are being compensated for your flight then you will have to follow the commercial set of rules!

    MONEY is what this is ALL about! Normal aircraft pilots must pay the FAA for licensing and all that good stuff. So RC pilots are able to do it cheaper due to not having to pay the FAA and regular pilots are throwing a fit cause they are loosing profit! He even says this at 50 minutes!

    At 51:30 "aircraft need to be operated by certificate pilots". So I assume they will make us pay some certificate fee and an inspection of aircraft fee. It is all about the government getting their money! The US stomps on small startups never letting them get off the ground just because bigger companies have the funds to line their pockets and make them set forth rules upon the little people.

  • T3

    Isn't commenting largely useless as we are not commenting on a notice of proposed rule making? We are commenting on current FAA "policy". Therefore, this all will have to be hashed out in court anyways?

    I have commented, but all the comments in the world is not going to stop the FAA from this witch hunt. The only way to stop them is an act of congress or for them to lose court cases that set precedent. 

    Am I wrong about this? 

  •   My take on this is that a large percentage of those interested in this

    topic are going to do what they've been doing, which is to say to ignore

    what the FAA says. Our government can't even begin to keep thousands

    of children from Central America from entering the US illegally, so who is

    going to be worried about the FAA pounding on their door is their kid flies

    his toy? 

    BTW, speaking from experience filling out the FAA comment forum is a no

    brainer, so no one should hesitate posting their thoughts on this.

  • I do not agree with the assessment of the author about being largely silent.

    The groups and there memberships mentioned are considerably inflated.

    The people who have at one time over the past several years joined do not reflect anything like active membership.

    And many of them like us are truly global meaning 50 percent or more of the membership may not be affected by the FAA (or think they aren't) but not being American they really don't feel qualified to comment anyway.

    And as for the AMA, a lot of their members are completely against the idea of drones, UAVs, quadcopters, FPV and autonomous flight anyway, so they have mixed feelings at best.

    And, by the time the FAA said they were actually finally going to release this for public comment, they did it on a schedule where they could be assured that the AMA would not have time to notify their membership by their normal means of communication - (their monthly magazine) which is pretty much laid out at least a month in advance of publication.

    I do not think this was an accident on the part of the FAA.

    All things considered what is now 3500 actual responses to the FAA is a very significant number and the other issues/numbers referred to relate to much better advertised to consumer oriented issues than this one which the FAA has done it's best to tuck under the rug.

    The FAA is not actually interested in hearing what the public thinks, they are clearly interested only in their own interpretations and judgments.

    As is clearly indicated by the first thing the FAA did which was to reinterpret what the Congress passed as a legal bill which told them not to make any laws regarding model airplanes, which they have hypocritically twisted into saying that the Congress actually meant the exact opposite.

    The FAA is clearly not even vaguely interested in the law except as they reinterpret it using their own double speak version of 1984's New Speak.

    Clearly they have all the moral righteousness of the "Ministry of Information" - (None!)

    The FAA has already decided what they are going to do and have no intention of listening to what anybody else has to say, except possibly Boeing, Northrup or Raytheon.

    It is their clear intention to stomp our entire hobby as well as small enterprise commercial UAV use completely into the ground.

    I have also responded directly to this article on the Forbes site.

    Best Regards,


  • @ Joshua,

    Thanks for the reminder.  Just posted my comments.  The count is up to 3,503 this morning.

  • I'm not in the US and have little to fear from the FAA...  There are no similar moves from our local regulator but there is no shortage of idiots giving them reasons to start.

    I'm guessing that most hobbyists in the US are just ignoring the FAA and intend to continue as if nothing has changed, not that it is clear that anything has actually changed.  It appears that this is just the latest FAA attempt to recover from their embarrassing loss to Trappy in court.  Their latest interpretation means little until it is tested in court, where it might easily turn into another FAA fail.

    Good luck with the fight.

  • I share your concern. It does seem odd that people aren't more responsible to this but I'm assuming they are just jaded. Have a listen to Jim Williams of the FAA speaking recently at the sUSB Expo. It's pretty hard to take someone like this seriously.

  • For many that can hear a medical copter and Hospital in a nearby existence it is proper to not fly 50 Ft.  I emphasize not hearing.

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