MOU between the FAA and AMA


Signed at the AMA Expo, Ontario California. DTV is there and will report back!

Memorandum of Understanding between Academy of Model Aeronautics and Federal Aviation Administration

Concerning Operation of Model Aircraft In the National Airspace System


This Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) establishes a cooperative working relationship between the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA).


AMA is a nationally recognized, non-profit membership organization that was established in 1936. The organization has provided leadership for an expansive aero-modeling community throughout the United States and its territories. Over time, AMA has developed and maintained a National Model Aircraft Safety Code, which provides guidelines for the safe
operation of model aircraft.

Until 1981, there were no federal guidelines or directives for model aircraft operations. In June of that year, the FAA published an Advisory Circular (AC 91-57) titled “Model Aircraft Operating Standards.” Although not directive in nature, AC 91-57 provided general guidance for the operation of model aircraft.

On February 17, 2012, President Obama signed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (FMRA) (Pub.L.112-95) into law. Within this Act, a special provision for model aircraft was enacted. Section 336 of the FMRA provides a definition of the term “model aircraft”, requirements for operating model aircraft, and reinforces the authority that the FAA possesses to pursue enforcement action against persons operating model aircraft in an unsafe manner. In addition, section 106 and 40103 of Title 49, United States Code provides the authority of the Federal Aviation Administration to prescribe aviation standards and regulate aviation operations in the National Airspace System (NAS).

In addition, in the FMRA, Congress acknowledged the efficacy of community-based safety programming, and specified that if a model aircraft is operated in accordance with a community-based set of safety guidelines and within the programming of a nationwide community-based organization, the FAA may not promulgate any rule or regulation regarding that model aircraft.

This MOU outlines the relationship that will be maintained between the FAA and the AMA.

The AMA and the FAA intend to work together by openly communicating any questions and needs as they arise. Technology and operating environments are always changing, and thus establishing an understanding of the nature of the cooperative working relationship between the two organizations is critical to meet the mission needs of the FAA and the AMA.


The Academy of Model Aeronautics agrees to:

 Develop, establish, and maintain a comprehensive safety program to educate and direct its members in how to safely operate model aircraft in the NAS.

 Develop, maintain, and enact appropriate guidelines, procedures, and operating standards for its members responsive to the minimum safety criteria established in PL112-95 and implement the AMA Safety Program to include the PL 112-95 Enactment Standards.

 Maintain the AMA Safety Program by regularly reviewing relevant safety data and updating the program to address any issues that are brought to light by the data.

 Continue to establish appropriate safety guidelines for emergent technologies and novel facets of aero-modeling activity.

 Provide the FAA with an updated copy of the AMA Safety Program whenever substantive changes are made, or upon request.

 Foster a positive and cooperative environment within the aero-modeling community toward the FAA, its employees, and its regulatory structure.

 Serve as a conduit between the aero-modeling community at-large, the hobby industry, and the FAA in order to provide relevant and time-critical aviation safety information to all parties.

 Bring issues and questions to the FAA when matters arise related to model aircraft that could impact the safety of the NAS.

 Maintain Safety Programming documentation on the public section of the AMA website in order to promote safety throughout the entire aero-modeling community, even among non-AMA members.

The Federal Aviation Administration agrees to:

 Review AMA’s Safety Program and advise the Academy on safety issues related to aero-modeling operations within the NAS.

 Educate and inform appropriate FAA field personnel regarding the most current aeromodeling policies, procedures, and operating standards.

 Address model aviation safety and operational issues through the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Office, AFS-80. This office will act as a conduit to other areas of the FAA in order to resolve and address matters of mutual concern and interest.

 Foster a positive and cooperative environment towards model aviation within the agency’s national, regional, district, and local offices.

 Maintain an open line of communication with the AMA to exchange information and provide relevant and/or time critical notices regarding aviation safety and airspace operations.

 Cooperate with the AMA in dealing with and resolving issues of concern to either or both parties.

Effective Dates

It is understood and agreed by the undersigned that the intent of this MOU is to state shared goals and to establish and maintain cooperation toward meeting these shared goals. This MOU does not create any binding obligation on either party. Each party agrees to conduct its representative activities in a coordinated and mutually beneficial manner. The FAA and the AMA will evaluate their respective participation with the terms of this agreement periodically and communicate any issues with the term as soon as they arise.

This MOU will be in effect at the time of the signing and may be terminated at any time by either of the signing authorities or their successors. One party or the other must serve the notice of the termination at least ninety (90) days prior to the effective date of that termination, or in the case of mutual consent, with no prior notice requirement.

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  • Moderator

    The AMA is ring fencing lots of standard RC stuff DHS wanted jets banned and speed and height limits more strictly enforced. (How I don't know) oh and no flying at all in controlled airspace that touches the surface. To my mind in order to protect some activities they have agreed to dob in stuff the FAA won't like.

  • True, we need money and lots of it. The free to join group has more clout than you would think. The FAA doesn't get the grass roots concept, and this grass roots groups doesn't get the FAA. We will get pigeonholed if we don't stand up for ourselves. Many want to just fly and innovate.

    I wouldn't call the FAA AMA relationship cozy. I cannot believe it took so long for the MOU to be signed.

    My question was the last question asked at the workshop… will the rc hobby look the same after the rule, yes or no? Jim Williams said yes.  


  • Moderator

    I have said it many times over RCAPA is free to join, has a set of rules to fly by and was at ARC 1. This was the group that tried to be the voice for our kind of people. But folks did'nt get behind it, well about 3000 did,but that was not enough. The AUVSI is looking after your interests now and to date they have done a great job of looking after the interests of AV and Boeing. This is who you are up against, not the AMA but DOD contractors with Senators in their pockets. 

  • I wasn't actually suggesting we go into competition with the AMA regarding this, of course they have huge clout and for the moment we have - well - None!

    But the AMA's interests are not the same as ours and their viewpoint is going to simply being one of making sure that we don't cause them any trouble.

    Their motivation is to maintain as much freedom for traditional (Victorian era) RC as possible.

    But we have an opportunity to present a more organized and reasonable set of ideas that can work for, us The AMA and the FAA.

    I am definitely not suggesting we buck the AMA, rather just consider them part and parcel of the same venture.

    Re weight - size limits I do think this is one area where we can probably obtain important concessions now that we may not be able to later.

    In fact, the current AMA limit for an AMA legal RC plane is 125 pounds largest that can be flown at an AMA event.

    But the odds that what we will be able to autonomously fly could be that big uncontrolled are very small.

    I think we should actually propose possible weight ranges of 0 to 1/4lb, 1/4lb to 1/2lb, 1/2lb to 1lb, 1lb to 2lb, 2lb to 4lb, 4lb to 10lb, 10lb to 15lb, 15lb to 50lb and 50+lb. (Alternately Metric is fine too if preferred).

    Obviously these are just the most preliminary suggestions for possible divisions, but you get the drift.

    The little guys should be able to operate with very little restriction because the safety considerations are very light and the potential flight times and performance are not enough to let them get into trouble with conventional aircraft or extended or hazardous missions.

    But make no mistake as HD cameras and copters get smaller even the little guys are going to be powerful tools.

    Each increasing weight class could have a broader set of restrictions attached to it's operational restrictions and requirements.

    There is much more too of course, this is just some thoughts to get the ball rolling.

    It might be nice to find out what it is we really want and what we think we might actually be able to get.

  • 15 lb limit? PL 112-95 says nothing about that for model aircraft.

    For brevity, I left out (3), (4), and (5) in the section above. But to be totally clear how the US Government views model aircraft...

    (3) the aircraft is limited to not more than 55 pounds unless otherwise certified through a design, construction, inspection, flight test, and operational safety program administered by a community-based organization;

    (4) the aircraft is operated in a manner that does not interfere with and gives way to any manned aircraft; and

    (5) when flown within 5 miles of an airport, the operator of the aircraft provides the airport operator and the airport air traffic control tower (when an air traffic facility is located at the airport) with prior notice of the operation (model aircraft operators flying from a permanent location within 5 miles of an airport should establish a mutually-agreed upon operating procedure with the airport operator and the airport air traffic control tower (when an air traffic facility is located at the airport)).

    Actually (4) and (5) above are conditions where the Administrator will not make a rule or regulation -- as long as (4) and/or (5) are not based by the safety rules of the community-based organization.

    As if we need more confusion about PL 112-95 has yet another category that model aircraft can fall under...

    Section 331, Definition (6):

    (6) SMALL UNMANNED AIRCRAFT.—The term ‘‘small unmanned aircraft’’ means an unmanned aircraft weighing less than 55 pounds.

    This was actually well ahead of section 336 regarding models.

    In Section 331 there is another fascinating definition:

    (4) PUBLIC UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEM.—The term ‘‘public unmanned aircraft system’’ means an unmanned aircraft system that meets the qualifications and conditions required for operation of a public aircraft (as defined in section 40102 of title 49, United States Code).

    THIS page gets specific on what a Public Aircraft is. (Think military and/or other 'public' uses).

    That's enough law quoting for now. The only bets are how the FAA will implement the law as passed by Congress.

    This has been fun and I hope educational for the group. Darn, it's dark outside now and I wasted the afternoon on the internet rather than flying...


  • Other than the AMA being a relatively known quantity, I think there is another benefit to joining traditional RC: it won't be long before traditional RC aircraft and small UAVs are fundamentally indistinguishable. We are almost there already and the Internet of Things (a term as bad as 'drones' in my opinion) is rapidly making sensors and boards smaller and cheaper. The Intel Edison is a great example of this while autonomy requires few sensors. You already have to be in-the-know to tell a regular multicopter flight controller from an autonomous unit and IMU-base stabilization is so handy that I suspect it will proliferate RC.

  • Again, well said Gary McC.

    To form up a community-based organization takes time and resources. The AMA has been around 75 years.

    If anyone takes the time to read over the mandate put forth by Congress, HERE IT IS, it is very clear that the hobby and commercial use of unmanned aircraft are considered separate issues.

    (We have plowed over this ground before but, for the sake of a good conversation...)

    Start in 'Subtitle B—Unmanned Aircraft Systems' There are many definitions and time limits for certain activities but the clear message is that model aircraft are viewed differently than other unmanned aircraft.

    The synopsis above gives the reader a shortcut...


    To save the reader more time:

    ...the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration
    may not promulgate any rule or regulation regarding a model
    aircraft, or an aircraft being developed as a model aircraft, if - the principle definition of a model aircraft...

    (1) the aircraft is flown strictly for hobby or recreational use; here is where the AMA comes into play...

    (2) the aircraft is operated in accordance with a community-
    based set of safety guidelines and within the programming
    of a nationwide community-based organization;

    Which is the essence of this blog post, the MOU - Memorandum of Understanding. The FAA is recognizing that the AMA is a community based organization and considers it safety codes suitable 'safety guidelines'.

    IRCHA is a solid organization and SIG of the AMA

    IMAA is a SIG of the AMA.

    NMPRA is another SIG of the AMA.

    Anyone want to bet lunch that what we are debating does not become another SIG (special interest group) of the AMA?


  • Seems to me the logical thing for us (DIYDrones) to do is actually organize in relation to this and try to establish a positive and interactive relationship with the FAA ourselves.

    We have a lot of strong opinions about should and shouldn't and can and can't, but in the long run it would serve our interests better to try and come up with some reasonable methodologies that might actually work with the government and public we are stuck with.

    In the end we might not get what we wanted, but at least we could state our case logically and reasonably and possibly it would eventually work out better than if we continue as we are now, talking and debating, but coming up with no actual plan of action or substantive concepts.

    Just sounds like such a pain, especially when you could be out flying your multicopter - - for now!

  • There is something afoot with the AMA and what we would call sUAS or drones. All of the rc models fall under the  sUAS nomenclature. The handwriting is on the wall that everyone in the rc business is supplying military and other clients.

    Gleaned from the show.

    1. Again, "drone" technology came out of the hobby world not military, and still does.

    2. Backpedal on the notion of farmers using drones for farming… they can't use them for business purposes only RC flying on their land. If the intent is business it is verboten.  

    3. AUVSI has realized they have to get off the duff because they look as bad or worse then the government. 

    4. AMA has a sUAS group that they have hired a consultant to facilitate. I am told that the group is working in private on what sUAS uses and the sector "amateur/hobby" are in the future of AMA. I was not allowed in the meeting as "observers are disruptive" and then later it was private and they didn't want any media there. Whatever! I have to say I don't like closed door shenanigans when it comes to this industry. Closed doors and the notion of a few table scraps have already cost this industry years. 

    People like to paint me as passionate about this industry and technology. Some of that is true, but there is also a high level of frustration as I have watched folly after huge mistake be perpetuated at the communities expense. The sense of urgency is very much lost on those bringing down big salaries as the years drag on.

    Also some frustration with the community as it has let the government work it out on their time. 


  • Excellent points and well said Gary McC.

    As was discussed in 'yet another AMA bashing thread' this week, safety rules are established to protect people and property by reducing risk at large gatherings of flyers or small gatherings at the local club field. In addition to those two situations, AMA members are covered by the liability insurance IF they are operating according to the safety rules when at the local park, school yard, or cow pasture.The insurance companies require this.

    Is is that simple. No one will be required to join the AMA for individual flying or experimenting. If you want to fly at the local club, do not be surprised if AMA membership is required.

    If you enjoy buzzing around the back yard cow pasture, naked, stoned on recreational pot, while listening to Guns N'Roses 'Welcome to the Jungle' -- then bless your heart, go have fun.

    BUT if you then crash your aircraft into your neighbor's BMW, busting out the front windshield and causing it to catch fire from a LiPo battery ignition -- AMA membership won't help you.

    This is just another step to keeping the government from being over controlling in regards to a hobby and small industry.

    Commercial/business operation of these vehicles?? -- that is another story yet to be written.

    We are all waiting on that.


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