"The FAA has released a set of cease and desist letters sent in 2012 and 2013 to people operating drone vehicles for a variety of purposes including: tornado research, inspecting gas well stacks, aerial photography, journalism education, and other purposes. Drone cease and desist letters sent during 2014 are available from the FAA upon request." The text of the letters (bureaucratically polite, but bureaucratically firm) often starts with notes indicating that the UAV operators to whom they were sent that the FAA became interested in them because it "became aware of" their web sites, or even because someone tipped them off about an article in a community newsletter. The letters go on to outline the conditions under which the FAA allows the operation of unmanned aircraft, and specifically notes: Those who use UAS only for recreational enjoyment, operate in accordance with Advisory arcular 91-57. This generally applies to operations in remotely populated areas away from airports, persons and buildings, below 400 feet Above Ground Level, and within visual line of sight. On February 6, 2007 the FAA published UAS guidance in the Federal Register, 14 CPR Part 91 / Docket No. FAA-2006-25714 I Unmanned Airaaft Operations in the National Airspace System. Toward the end of the docket it says, ''The FAA recognizes that people and companies other than modelers might be flying UAS with the mistaken understanding that they are legally operating under the authority of AC 91-57. AC 91-57 only applies to modelers, and thus specifically excludes Its use by pecions or companies for business purposes."

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  • I have been a commercial pilot and Cessna owner for 25 years, so I know a bit about the FAR's and the FAA.

    1. The FAA has always operated on the basis of two categories of UAS, light and heavy.  Regulation of light UAS are all that we hobby fliers should be concerned with.  Heavy UAVs will be certified aircraft, will carry ADS-B Transponders and will merge well with other aircraft in the NAS.  Light UAVs will probably be limited to altitudes lower than where heavy aircraft should ever be located.  I suspect that the FAA will likely not change much regarding hobby model aircraft but to formally define hobby operations.  Their conundrum is the commercial use of light UAVs, but that's another discussion.

    2. So joining the AMA makes everyone a responsible pilot?  LOL.  Adhering to AMA restrictions at sanitized AMA fields and requiring two pilots kind of dismisses the utility of drones.  Hard to test fly my drone when the nearest AMA field is 25 miles from my home.  Hard to make aerial photos of my home from 25 miles away.  Helluva telephoto lens there.

    3. The AMA had no language problem when modelers were making scale F-16's with a small turbine engine inside.  It was still called an F-16.  And you are wrong about the defense contractor's interests.  They have micro drones in their labs now, so they are interested in all sizes of UAV aircraft.  And there you go again selling the AMA.  Are you saying that one can't fly safely without "voluntarily attach themselves to a strong and written code of ethics"?  Yes, once in a while someone does something stupid, but this is no reason to force all hobby fliers to join the AMA or promulgate new restrictive laws.  We already have laws against trespass, voyeurism, invasion of privacy and destruction to property - why do we need more laws just because a UAV is involved?

    4. Yes, the federal regulations are always behind the technological curve.  Just ask any Ham Radio operator.  Ask any certified pilot.  And, there you go again making a case for joining the AMA.  "The greatest freedom for hobbyists ... is to voluntarily adopt self-governing guidelines".  Wow, all we have to do is join the AMA and all federal efforts to regulate hobby flying will go away. LOL2.  When AC 91-57 was written in 1981 there were few modelers, and very few flying RC aircraft.  Today there are many thousands of RC, FPV and GPS capable UAV's in the hands of hobbyists, so it's no surprise that some kind of regulations may be called for.  At the very least to define what is acceptable hobby UAV flight.  If you fly within the (yet defined) parameters the FAA will likely not even see you.  The AMA defined parameters are restrictive in the extreme, and that the FAA is even listening to the AMA is truly frightening for the future of the hobby.

  • Moderator

    Canada is further ahead than the USA ;-)

  • I'm not implying anything that I did not explicitly address (above). 

    There are a couple of concerns that I have as a hobbyist in America:

    1. The FAA seems to want to declare the entire hobby of RC flying as a subset of full-sized aircraft, destroying the line between hobby and national airspace/travel. 

    2. AMA fliers, as a subset of hobby fliers, hold to very specific safety guidelines that are well proven to not cause problems with full sized aircraft. The FAA does not seem to recognize this voluntary adherence to strict safety standards, and seems to categorize our fields along with all the crazy and dangerous stunts pulled by any RC flier.

    3. There is a language problem, dealing with the topic of small airframes. Big engineering companies identify Global Hawk or a Predator with Hellfire missiles as typical "UAVs", while Hobby King sells foamy gliders with a video camera and calls them "UAVs". The big defense contractors have shown little interest in the class of airframes that AMA members in America typically fly, and very few engineers from the local defense industry fly at our local club. But the big engineering companies think that they own "UAV" technology (it is dangerous to let amateur hobbyists use this hardware...), and this is how they posture to the FAA. The FAA hears the language of libertarian hobbyists (who do not hold to any strict safety standards) who claim that they have the right to fly whatever "UAV" technology they want,  wherever they want, and frankly, can't draw a clear line between useful and benign technology safely flown, and dangerous proto-terrorist tools. I would rather that the hobbyist/commercial fliers used language that reflected size, range, and capability of what they flew, and voluntarily attach themselves to a strong and written code of ethics (I would include in this, the use of carefully delimited language).  

    4. Government bureaucrats are behind in RC technology. They tend to be paranoid about what they don't understand, and tend to identify safe technology and use as what is strictly under (massive and bureaucratic) legislation. This tendency is at odds with hobbyists having access to all sorts of technology to build creative machines. The hardware and software to build really dangerous stuff is ubiquitous. The greatest freedom for hobbyists to continue to build very creative machines, is to voluntarily adopt self-governing guidelines for technology use, and prove the safety of these guidelines. This distinguishes safe and benign applications in a very graphic way, and would tend to remove these applications from prohibitive legislation.

    (I gather from the foreign comments that Australia is rather ahead of the USA in the area of trying to integrate small airframes into a standard classification system. Foreign readers may think that comments from the US side of the fence are a little weird....)

  • No, I mean AMA rules.  You can call them restrictions if you want, but they are rules, just like any other private organization has for any hobby or activity.  And like any other, you are welcome to not bother with the if you don't want to.  Just fly somewhere else.

    The AMA does not prohibit FPV.  They have rules for how FPV must be conducted.  Rules which you must follow at AMA fields and events.  And rules which you can choose to follow elsewhere in life (like your backyard), if you want to, and if you want their insurance coverage to apply to you.

  • " If you are flying in your backyard, following the AMA rules..."

    Line of sight only, no FPV.  Don't you mean AMA restrictions?  The AMA has always been hostile to drones.  That the FAA is taking "advice" from the AMA is truly frightening.

  • The insurance you get from the AMA does actually apply outside of AMA sponsored locations, including your backyard.  The insurance covers you anywhere as long as your flying is within the AMA rules.  If you are flying in your backyard, following the AMA rules, and you crash, the AMA insurance will cover you.  If you are flying in your backyard (or an AMA field for that matter) doing something that violates the rules, they will not cover you.  This is the only instance where AMA rules have application outside an AMA field or event.

    Of course, public act 112 seems to be written in such a way as to require you to join the AMA in order to fly model aircraft for hobby purposes once regulations are made.  Not that you need to be at an AMA location.  Just be part of their programming.  So when the FAA finally makes regulations, expect the scenario to change.

  • Moderator

    They should not apply to both unless you want traditional modelling restricted. The AMA thought they had pulled a blinder with HR658 but as we now know, not so much.  First BVLOS committee meeting is on Friday with the FAA and Patrick from sUAS News will be there.

  • You're right that the AMA and the broader hobby and FAA airspace are different topics. But the FAA is looking seriously at the AMA and its clubs'  safety regulations, and my comments from the standpoint of an AMA member are relevant.

    If you look at safety rules for AMA sponsored clubs, flying over people or inhabited structures is forbidden. The AMA has formally suggested to all its clubs that FPV flying be strictly line of sight, with a separate observer by the pilot. And AMA clubs lay down rules for flying at the club field -- they do not sanction flying anywhere else, such as someone's back yard.

    These comments are relevant for DIY Drones, not because the AMA is required membership for drone pilots (it obviously is not), but because we fly exactly the same equipment. And it is important for AMA members to underline the distinctions between the overwhelming uniformity of safety rules at AMA clubs, and those who fly the same equipment with no connection to the AMA.

    The FAA is showing interest in passing regulations that apply for both groups.

  • Moderator

    The AMA would be the wrong people to administrate commercial flight. Lets look at two countries with regs, Australian and the UK neither countries model aircraft association has anything to do with RPAS. 

  • I think your understanding of the law and the AMA's role is a little off.  The AMA doesn't sanction anything except the field at AMA HQ.  They sponsor local clubs, and have rules that must be followed in order to maintain that sponsorship and insurance protection.

    You are not required to be a member of the AMA or use an AMA field to fly a model aircraft for hobby purposes.  The AMA is an organization for the model aircraft hobby.  Membership is not required to participate in the hobby. Furthermore, nobody is required to follow the AMA's rules or guidelines outside AMA events and club fields.  The AMA has no authority over my back yard.

    You clearly have no understanding at all of how the national airspace system or how full size aviation works.

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