My 2 cents to the FAA


Not sure if anyone will ever read it, or anyone cares, but I commented here. If you haven't done so yet I encourage you to do so too:!documentDetail;D=FAA-2014-0396-0001

To whom it may concern,

I am writing in response to the FAA's Interpretive rule for model aircraft. The proposed regulations are concerning to me as a hobbyist, photographer, and engineer interested in developing new technology. The specifics of the rule portray the FAA to be  ignorant of the hobby and acting out of retribution for the Piker V Huerta ruling. The proposal does little to improve the safety of air travel. Instead, it threatens to destroy a past time, stifle innovation, and squash entrepreneurship.

I have been involved in model aviation for nearly 20 years, and an AMA member for most of them. I grew up following the technological advances in this hobby and attribute much of my professional success as an engineer to skills and interests cultivated in this hobby. I worked summers in high school teaching kids model aviation and rocketry. I believe this hobby gave me a lot and can do the same for others, which is why I feel strongly about protecting it.

To many, including myself, the technology side of hobby is more exciting than actually flying. The advancements in electronic flight controllers, first person video, and new battery technology has given birth to a new era of innovators and hobbyists. The FAA's ban on video goggles is silly and misinformed. FPV flying has the potential to be a more accurate and safe way to fly model air craft than the conventional 'line of sight' method. Safe flight has nothing to do with FPV and everything to do with pilots acting responsibly and with care.

I also take objection to the FAA's strict ban on commercial flights under the guise of public safety. If a model aircraft pilot is paid to take aerial photographs of a location, how does that make it less safe than if if he or she were not paid? Why can professionally sponsored pilots not be paid, as they have been for years, for demonstrating their skills at controlled events? Do hobby and toy companies need a COA to test their products?

There needs to be a distinction between small hobby grade UAV for commercial use and large UAV used by our government. The two are not the same and should not be treated as such. A size or weight class exemption would be appropriate for small UAV commercial use.  UAVs have the potential to do great good and improve the safety of our airspace by doing things that would normally put a human operator in danger. The United States should strive to be a leader in this technology.

I suggest that the FAA work with hobbyists and entrepreneurs to develop common sense guidelines that preserves our country's safe airspace while protecting the rights of the model aviation community and encouraging growth of commercial UAV. I believe that the previous FAA advisory to model aircraft is appropriate:

1) Stay below 400 feet
2) Do not fly beyond line of slight range with the ground pilot
3) Stay away from developed areas

I would further suggest that size or weight classes be setup so there can be a distinction between small UAV and larger aircraft. Hobby grade UAV, be it used for commercial or recreational use, do not pose the same risk as aircraft that are orders of magnitude bigger. The FAA should recognize this and know which is appropriate to regulate.

By working with the community, the FAA can ensure that our country remains a leader in both air safety and emerging technology. I hope the FAA will revise their rule making based on feedback from the public.

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  • I read the regulations in more detail now. When you design a ruling, the objective is to exclude methods of operations that are dangerous and that it specifies what safe operation means. An example rule: "when driving a vehicle you shouldn't engage in activities not critical to the safe operation of the vehicle (putting on lipstick, using your phone, etc.. ). The driver must at all times watch the road and check mirrors to maintain situational awareness."

    In that context, this FAA interpretation basically assumes that the only true safe method for operating a model vehicle is by direct line-of-sight. The concern of the use of FPV is that it limits the field of view, so you wouldn't be able to determine direction and distance of full-scale traffic.

    I flew a good couple of times already and I do not remember that I take my eyes of the model at any point in time, ever. A split second of diversion or loss of concentration could change the attitude of the model and you'd lose precious milliseconds trying to determine what it's doing and probably crash it.

    To figure out what's going on, I rely on hearing and call-outs from others.

    If the current regular operation already doesn't allow us to scan the sky, then there isn't that much difference between FPV and direct LOS operation to begin with, which makes this FAA interpretation even worse and where it demonstrates they don't properly understand model piloting from an operational perspective.

    That makes this ruling very ineffective.

    A point to make: If there would be a substantial difference in ability to safely and effectively pilot a model in LOS or FPV, we'd be having a very heated debate about this now... how flying through a camera is inherently unsafe vs. LOS flight. I think it's rather the opposite: it's (cognitively) more difficult to operate a vehicle remotely than it is looking through goggles (assuming there are no people or objects left/right/behind.

    Also, I don't think it was ever tested or considered that perhaps in FPV you have better abilities to scan the sky versus operations from the ground. At the ground you have occlusions like buildings and trees. It should be possible to conduct an experiment where you measure the time between full situational awareness of an FPV and LOS pilot after they detect full-scale. Do they know what that plane is doing, is it coming towards you, where is it exactly, should I land?  Sounds like a great experiment that a club could execute some time and provide some feedback on their findings.

    So a poll:  Do you scan the sky as a LOS pilot if you hear full-scale?

  • Guy, I will take your word for it.  I have been searching for this in the FAR and I cannot find this.  But searching the FARs is not an easy task.

    Next time I am around our local FAA examiner, I will inquire w/ him what this means for the pilot vs. the farmer vs Walmart and all their flags and light poles sticking up, which I am pretty sure they don’t register w/ FAA.  How many friggin light poles and flags stick up into the air in a place like Denver, most of which is also class G airspace, millions????   Not sure there exist enough paper to account for all of those.  So I think you guys are getting screwed. What government does best.. 

    Also helicopters have slightly different rules than fixed wing, especially with regards to minimums and clearances.  We have almost NO restrictions there in E and G because we can go so slow, land on roof tops, etc.  Flying REALLY close to obstacles is what we do.  Like I said, I want to become an instructor and FAR “what ifs” are a big part of that.  

    It's very interesting to me and thank you for the info

    Back on topic;
    I oppose ANY NEW FAA regulations, in fact we need to get rid of some.  Like the ones that PROHIBIT using GPS for IFR, which is INSANE. We still use radio beacon technology from WW2 for that.  My iPhone does better.

    I especially DO NOT want NEW regulations that apply to class G (aka uncontrolled) airspace, where 99% of drones operte.  Class G extends 1200 feet from the surface and for helicopters (which is a large percent of drones) the only flight restriction I know of in class G under VFR is to remain clear of clouds.  I can even touch the clouds with my rotor blades, I just cannot fly into them under VFR. Under IFR I can pass through clouds, land in zero visibility, which is kind of the whole point of IFR.  Drones, like pilots, can be VFR only or VFR + IFR. In fact drones make GREAT IFR pilots, much BETTER IFR pilots than humans.  With today’s technology I would outlaw human IFR before I outlawed drone IFR…

    If drones just followed the same rules as human pilots, sport/private/commercial, IFR/VFR, Class A, B, C, D, E, and G, etc, I think that is MORE THEN good enough. And I am a private pilot, supposedly those FAA rules are there to protect me and other pilots/passengers, not people on the ground.

    Bottom line, if you harm someone, or interfere with another aircraft, you are already legally liable for that. Whether you use a drone, a laser pointer, a sling shot, a gun, or throw a brick.  

    I think the FAA is being a bunch of bureaucratic morons, as usual, for even pursuing this stuff.

  • I agree with all you posted, I was just making the correction of a farmer can actually own airspace above his property or he would never be able to erect any type of structure (Windmill, Wind turbine, Tower, Flag Pole etc).

    The law was adapted once air flight was invented, it used to be the land owner owned everything below and to the heavens.  But that was over a hundred years ago.

    I had to go through several steps to get wind turbines, several neighbors have runways and one is a public airport, even though he is the only one that uses it.

  • Guy, I am aware of no such restrictions on where I fly in class G (aka uncontrolled) airspace.

    Class E  (aka transition airspace) has some minimums unless it's an airstrip, then it extends to the ground

    The picture in this CFI teaching guide best illustrates the different airspaces. Below 1200 ft is ALL class G and in rare cases (airports) class E.  At night my class D airspace reverts to class E because the Air Traffic Controller leave at 9:00PM, return at 7:00AM.  I believe I could legally land an unlicensed aircraft with an unlicensed pilot there during those hours.

     I can find no FAR or AIM reference to the rules you are stating for class G, which 400 feet and under HAS TO BE class G, aka uncontrolled airspace.

    I think you might be referring to the obstacle rules, which are actually more than what you are talking about. And most like this FAR 94.177 ONLY apply to IFR, not VFR operations.

    • FAR 91.177 includes the IFR requirement to remain at least 1,000' (2,000' in mountainous terrain) above the highest obstacle within a horizontal distance of 4 NM from course to be flown

    IN GENERAL, the ONLY rule that applies in class G (aka unregulated airspace) is this one I pulled from AIM (Aviation Information Manual)

    • Except when associated with a temporary control tower, ATC does not have responsibility for or authority over aircraft in Class G airspace; however, most regulations affecting pilots and aircraft still apply

    What they mean for that is things like, I can't fly drunk, operate a crop duster, etc.

    Also be aware, helicopters, have some different rules than fixed wing, specifically with regard to clearances of clouds and obstacles, like this one;

    (b) Class G Airspace. Notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph (a) of this section, the following operations may be conducted in Class G airspace below 1,200 feet above the surface:

    (1) Helicopter. A helicopter may be operated clear of clouds if operated at a speed that allows the pilot adequate opportunity to see any air traffic or obstruction in time to avoid a collision.

    Which I believe means I can fly right up to the windmill as long as it's at a safe speed to avoid collision, which for me can be 1 inch per second...

    Touch the windmill, your personal property, now I am trespassing.  FAA does not concern itself with those laws, different department.

    I think those rules apply to you sticking things up into the airspace, creating a potential air hazard, not where I fly my helicopter. But I could wrong, entirely possible I am.  Please show me the FAR that restricts my minimum altitude above private property and enlighten me.

    BTW I mean no disrespect to "farmer Brown" I grew up on a cattle ranch in Wyoming. Took my first flying lesson from our neighbor who had his own plane, hanger (quonset hut), and dirt runway, but no license.  ;-)

  • Shaun, Farmer Brown can actually own up to 300ft and often right up to 400ft with the proper paperwork or I wouldn't be able to have cellular towers, windmills or wind turbines on my farm.

  • Just to be a little more clear, as I talk too much and points get lost.

    Currently, the FAR (Federal Aviation Regulations) allow ALMOST ANYTHING in class E and G airspace, where 99% of us fly drones, hot air balloons, parasails, gliders, parachutes, fly big ass kites, launch model rockets, play with RC airplanes, launch exploding fireworks, etc, etc.  Private individuals can build/operate their own experimental aircraft in class E and G WITHOUT licensing and WITHOUT airworthiness certificates TODAY. 
    ALL LEGAL, with no regulation, and drones operations should be as well. That should NEVER change just because now we have drones.  Drones that have better air controlability and precision than most human pilots.

    >>>> Interfering with the operation of an aircraft is ALREADY a federal offense, drunk passenger, unsafe piloting, laser pointer, hobby rocket, firework, or drone. So do not do that.  NOT EVER... Unless prison sounds fun...  



    Some FAR education, we could use some more of that, but not new laws.

    >>> I vehemently oppose the FAA placing regulations on drones that are not currently applied to human pilots operating balloons, ultralights, gyrocopters, parasails, parachutes, and other experimental class aircraft. <<< 

    Drones ARE AT LEAST as safe as any of those, probably safer as they have smaller mass.  So in the EXTREMELY rare event they do hit something, better then getting hit by a human piloted gyrocopter, which is certain death.

    So we need to educate our law makers (as they are friggen corrupt imbiciles) otherwise it’s going to be the likes of Amazon doing it and I’d rather not have them buying themselves some new rules that favor them but not us either.

  • Mathew,  I think we suffer a difference in philosophy here.  I believe that an overbearing, centralized government solution to any community problem will be the least effective way to solve the problem and will have as many, if not more negative consequences as self-regulation.  Humans tend to be meddlesome by nature and centralized power gives people the mechanism to meddle.

    you can't dismiss Mechanical/structural-related failure because the reason its so low in commercial fight is because the regulations on how well the aircraft is built and how often they're serviced is highly regulated by law to keep it low. 

    It's highly regulated now, but it wasn't so for many years.  In fact much of the regulation was developed by industry and the latest of it - S-LSA - is a collaboratively-developed ASTM (i.e. industry body) standard. 

    you seem to be stuck on this idea that for profit businesses do what's right when that's not backed up by reality. just look at GM knowing selling cars that they knew were unsafe for years. so doing anything for profit must always be more regulated then something done as a hobby.

    You point to the rare exception rather than the general rule to make your case here.  "safe" is not a binary condition of safe and unsafe either.  It's all in the acceptance of risk levels.  In the case of, say, the Ford Pinto, the risk accepted by Ford was not acceptable to the public, but only after a huge beat-up by vested interests.  The actual cost-benefit of the extra safety was probably much more than the public would be prepared to pay, had they known the real costs.  Unfortunately, the costs for some of this "safety" is diffuse and in many cases, opportunity cost, which cannot be quantified at all.

    As always, be careful what you wish for...

  • Hi Mathew,

    Don't get me wrong, in some ways the FAA is between a rock and a hard place, by all accounts they have been given a very unenviable if not downright impossible task.

    But we are not the drunken teens, RC planes have been around for 60 years and model planes have been around since before the first piloted planes.

    And a substantial portion of the people participating in it have been doing so for the last 30 or 40 years (me over 50).

    This whole giant brouhaha over drones IS very recent, but almost none of it has anything substantial to do with the actual realities of what is happening, but is driven by media and political madness driven by events and "drones" that actually have nothing to do with us.

    Unfortunately we are now tarred by association with the word "Drone".

    Our model and RC model airplanes got by fine for decades without the FAA feeling compelled to stomp it into oblivion.

    And they have very little factual excuse for doing so now.

    Sure the easy access to easy to fly quadcopters has temporarily gotten people involved because it is the latest fad and they are flying with out sufficient training, common sense and safety.

    But in no other endeavor has this sort of thing managed to elicit such a hysterical response.

    Prior to this model airplanes had a very good safety record, but things still went wrong and people periodically got hurt and even occasionally killed.

    It is not reasonable to think that any endeavor can be without risk, the normal response is to minimize the risk to an acceptable level.

    Unfortunately, for this particular endeavor the considered acceptable risk appears to be zero and the only way you can have zero risk is by disallowing the activity entirely.

    Which appears to be the course the FAA is taking.

    Interestingly, not at all one they follow in their normal day job of dealing with piloted aircraft where risk is simply a realistic consideration that is managed in a reasonable fashion.

    So yes, I stand behind Draconian, they have applied an unachievable zero risk mandate to our hobby and in the process of enforcing it are going to remove basically all of the freedom we have had until this point and destroy it entirely.

    Our American Congress passed a law telling them precisely what not to do and the first thing the FAA has done is to reinterpret what the Congress did into completely nullifying what they actually told them to do.

    It is the FAA who is showing a complete disregard for the law, not us.

  • Mathew Krawczun Invasion of privacy is invasion of privacy no matter how you sugar coat it.  Just because someone has a license doesn't make it legal over someone that doesn't.

  • @Gary McCray
    maybe my problem is I don't see what they're doing as "Draconian enforcement of their own current whims". sure its not perfect but is not that bad either. besides has you ever thought to ask maybe the problem isn't them its us?

    I mean you said it yourself the FAA is used to interacting with "elite and specialized group of people" we are kind of the drunken teens crashing the pasty expecting everything to go our way. most of us are flying experimental aircraft and what rules we do have most of us don't follow already (looking at you blacksheep).

    don't get me wrong I love Drones and have high hope for what they can do but we haven't really given the FAA a reason to trust us as a whole. as much the FAA has to change we have to change more if you want UAVs to be treated with respect.

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