Haven't seen this posted anywhere yet.


This is the current information and interim guidance on air traffic policies and prescribes procedures for the planning, coordination, and services involving the operation of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in the NAS.


It is in effect from March 28th 2011 until March 27th 2012.


Notwithstanding all the discussion of NPRMs, ARCs and Congess, this is The Official FAA policy for (s)UAS operations in the USA until further notice.


Complete document available HERE 



"Types and Authority

Current FAA policy for UAS operations is that no person may operate a UAS in the NAS without specific authority.

(1) Public.

(a) FAA policy restricts COAs to public operations as defined in title 14, Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Part 1, Definitions & Abbreviations.

(b) For UAS operating as public aircraft, the authority is the COA.

(2) Civil.

(a) Civil applicants must apply for a Special Airworthiness Certificate–Experimental Category.

(b) For UAS operating as civil aircraft, the authority is special airworthiness certificates.

(3) Hobbyist.

(a) Hobbyists should follow the guidance contained in Advisory Circular (AC) 91-57.

(b) For model aircraft, the authority is AC 91-57."





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  • The folks that make up the rules are a bunch of old timers that want to keep it 1970. In their eyes, small park fliers, FPV and (even semi) autonomous systems are ruining moel aviation. Just like the horseless carriage ruined transportation. These guys are into the equivalent of Penny/Farthing bicycles and detest the new-fangled chain driven things with gears and brakes.

    If the AMA gets their way they will make the FAA look like heaven.

  • PS:  If bigger is legal, I can do that.  Pickup an old Cessna and wire in an ardupilotmega.


  • I could never understand the established clubs -- and their distaste for UAVs.  I thought maybe they feel everyone should be using the sticks on the transmitter and didn't want a bunch of video game enthusiats turning to model airplanes.  The only legit flying field near me is a state park which they let the AMA run.  Seems like the AMA really just rents it out to people for AMA dues.  And then there a bunch of rules about needing a license signed off on to fly without a "buddy."

    Sorry, I'm not joining.  Let them try and find me.

  • Darren wrote:

    "So add earth terrain hugging at 400ft, with obstical avoidance and transponder support. and us hobbiests are ok... yes?"

    For the last 30 years hobbyists have ignored AC 91-57 based on the "should". You "should" stay below 400', stay in liine of sight and use "see and avoid". Hosever, you "may" do anything you want. If you feel that beyond LOS and/or 3000' Alt. is safe for a given area there is nothng stopping you.


    AC 91-57 is more of a yeild sign than a stop sign. Procede with caution and you are complying,

    My problem has been with the AMA safety code which basically ignores the AC completely, esp. the 400' guidance.

    Yet the AMA throws a fit over BLOS and autonomous systems which is fully within the AC. Fortunately, the AMA has no authority over anyone.,,,,yet.

  • Roughly 27.06 nautical miles if you also hold your transmitter about 4 feet off the ground - assuming the world was perfectly round of course. :-)



  • So add earth terrain hugging at 400ft, with obstical avoidance and transponder support. and us hobbiests are ok... yes?


    edit: does anyone know the therotical max distance away from home you can obtain at 400' altitude (***for example on an open salt flat with no weather interference taken into account) before terrain or other wise known as earth curviture; would impare/proclude reception from the aircraft.

  • Thank you for providing this information, Duane!
  • I guess I should point out that one intrpretation of AC 91-57 is that while it is not mandatory, flying beyond its guidance could be considered to no longer be "recreational" but an illegal sUAS.


    If anything bad happens (heaven forbid) with your hobby UAV and you are outside AC 91-57 do not think for a moment that the FAA won't nail you and that your insurance may deny your claim (depends on your type of coverage).


    I like to think of AC 91-57 as yeild sign at an intersection, others see it as a rotting note nailed to a tree.

  • To save people trouble and put a ton of wannabe lawyers out of a job:

    " 13. Word usage.
    a. May (need not be followed by a verb) means a procedure is optional.
    b. Must (followed by a verb or the use of an appropriate action verb in the imperative sense) means
    a procedure is mandatory.
    c. Should (followed by a verb) means a procedure is recommended.
    d. Will (followed by a verb) indicates futurity; not a requirement for application of a procedure.
    e. Singular words include the plural and plural words include the singular."

  • u. Unmanned Aircraft (UA) – an aircraft operated without the possibility of direct human
    intervention from within or on the aircraft.
    v. Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) – airframe, ground control station, command and control
    links, and crewmembers.

    The definition includes everything from a rubber powered toy (mentioned in several other documents) upto unmanned space vehicles (NASA refers to certain unmanned "shuttle" type vehicles as such ).

    Note: an sUAS is the above which weighs 55 pounds or less.


    It really is quite simple Gary, Without a COA (Govt) or Experimental SAC (Commercial) you can only use one for hobby and recreation under the same guidance since 1981; AC 91-57.

    Also, since AC 91-57 is "shoulds" (see use of words in the above document) they are highly recomended by the FAA and totaly ignored (esp. by the AMA safety code).


    A beyond line of sight FPV or fully autonomous aircraft weighing 500 pounds or more is perfectly legal to fly for fun in the USA. If you could gut the cockpit of a 747 and put in Radio Control, you could fly it for fun as far the FAA regulations go. Use a T-rex with a keychain camera to catch crooks or take pictures for money and you are illegal.


    All the current confusion comes from all the talk about regulations that are not in effect yet and 30 years of misinformation about current regulations.

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