The Proposal for the FAA Reauthorization Act 2016 contains several new rules and regulations that cover RC hobbyists and FPV pilots. Among other things, it proposes the introduction of an exam administered by the FAA, which will become a requirement for being allowed to fly any RC plane. This makes it look and feel a lot like how ham radio licenses work today.
While this may appear reasonable, what has to be kept in mind is that a single radio amateur transmitting something on the wrong frequency or with the wrong equipment can ruin parts of the spectrum for everyone, including people on the other side of the globe. That’s why entering the hobby of ham radio requires such a detailed exam. The safety rules for RC planes are much simpler and common sense, their ramnifications restricted to the immediate vincinity of the pilot, thus making the FAA administer exams is pure overkill.
Another juicy detail is the proposed requirement for manufacturers to prevent tampering or modification. This would rule out self-build models and is so detached from reality, it’s not even funny anymore.
Expect things to get worse, not better.
Effective christmas day 2015 (i.e. now), the FAA is enacting a 30 mile radius around Washington DC in which no RC model may be flown by any civilian. The FAA has imposed this restriction by ways of a TFR, which stands for Temporary Flight Restriction. This appears to be an extension of a prior TFR which banned flight operations within 15 miles of Reagan National Airport (KDCA), or a reinterpretation of an older NOTAM (FDC 0/8326) issued back in 2010 which banned all commercial aviation.
The acronym “TFR” is a misnomer, for these are anything but temporary and usually stay indefinitely or for many years to come. The 15-mile exclusion zone for RC models was time-limited until June 2016 but could be extended indefinitely. If it is indeed a reinterpretation of the old NOTAM, then this is already billed as “permanent”.
This ban affects a number of RC model clubs and flying fields, all of which have to cease operation overnight after having been notified on Christmas evening. The clubs are hopeful that they will be able to resume flying in January, but the FAA has made no indication that this measure is indeed “temporary”. Right now and until this TFR is lifted or the corresponding NOTAM interpretation changed, any hobbyists who want to fly their RC models will have to travel outside the 30-mile radius or face civil and criminal prosecution with large fines and/or severe prison sentences.
Update: The graphical map has been updated to show the correct center of the TFR, along with the correct radius in nautical miles. Details about NOTAM FDC 0/8326 added.
A hefty camera-toting multicopter crashed on the track of the mens slalom race at Madonna di Campiglio – just a few meters behind Austrian athlete Marcel Hirscher.
Rumor has it that the operator of this craft, a professional working for an AV production company hired by Italian TV, tried to steer away from the crowd and thus crashed on the slope.
Needless to say, this is not the news we need right now, and it’s water on the mills of those who want to essentially put and end to the entire hobby, except for small toys lighter than 250 grams. The sad fact is that RC models are sometimes involved in deadly accidents, for example back in 2006 when the hungarian military was suspected to have jammed the 35MHz band, causing the plane of a german pilot flying at a competition to kill two spectators, or like the Swiss accident of 2010, when a scale model of an AT-6 plummeted down on a 45-year old man, also lethally injuring him.
The thing to keep in mind here however is that life is full of risks and one cannot have perfect safety. And if it were true that we ought to do whatever is neccessary to curb any risks, then individuals would not be allowed to drive cars, and there would be no inflatable swimming pools sold in stores. We mitigate these risks by driving carefully and by watching over our kids so they don’t drown. It’s not perfect, but we do get the benefit of individual transportation, water playtime in our own garden, and the joy of RC model flight.
Perhaps flying a large and heavy quadrotor at a big sports event is not the best way to go about this though.
Full video footage of Marcel Hirscher’s run and the crash after the break.
As reported in our previous news, UAS regulations have been the subject of multilateral harmonization between the US and the EU. Today, german ministry of transportation announced plans for a new regulation affecting both drones and hobby RC craft.
The max. allowed flight ceiling will be 100 meters above ground. All RC aircraft are required to be registered. All flights with unregistered RC planes or copters above 500 grams are forbidden and pilots ignoring these new regulations will face extreme fines.
We told you it would come. We just had no idea things would move so quickly.
Starting December 21st, you will be able and required to register your RC model. All of them. Anything weighing more than 0.55 pounds (250 grams) and less than 55 pounds (25 kg) has to be registered. Registrations will be free until January 20th, after which they will cost $5. You are required to complete registration by February 2016.
Registration will get you a three-year license, after which you have to renew your registration – and pay again.
Failure to comply may result in civil fines of up to $27.000, and/or criminal penalties of up to $250.000
This does apply to hobbyists, and this does apply to anything that flies, not just multirotor craft.
The AMA has responded to this new regulation, and predictably they are not happy. Trouble is, their objection is unlikely to find many supporters, and if you think we’re safe in Europe, I can tell you right now that these regulations have been harmonized between FAA, EASA, Eurocontrol as well as between the US Government and the EU. Similar rules will be enacted all across Europe soon.
Needless to say, registration will not prevent bad things from happening, and it will not prevent people with bad intentions from doing bad things.
Edit: Watch Bruce fume on youtube about this after the break.
Jeremy Clarkson is now working for Amazon, creating a new show with his unique brand of humor. And when he’s not bashing electric vehicles he’s busy announcing things for his new employer. This time it’s Amazon’s new hybrid delivery drone prototype, which combines VTOL capabilities of multicopters with the long range of winged airframes.
This comes to no surprise for industry experts due to the fact that powered hover flight using a quad rotor system is 10 times less efficient than a single motor pushing a winged aircraft. Thus it makes sense to combine the two in a hybrid approach. This in itself is not new, though it’s the first time we see Amazon go for this approach. Check out the video after the break.
In other news, “One Punch Man” is a japanese anime about a superhero with the unique dilemma that he’s too powerful and thus able to kill any opponent with a single punch. The writers of this manga jumped on the bandwagon, and depict a possible scenario for delivering low-value mail like fan letters. In the anime adaptation, it looks like this:
Now that delivery drones have made it into popular culture, when do you think this or something like it will become the norm?
Minor nitpick: The cargo and main electronics appear to be located forward of the CG, which doesn’t look like an optimal design 😉
The final report by the Aviation Rulemaking Comittee Taskforce on UAS has been released, and it doesn’t look good.
As previously reported, the ARC recommends not just the central registration of commercial UAS, but actually ALL UAS, including RC models and toys, over a take-off weight of 250 grams. This is in stark contrast to some of the “corrections” issued by non-involved persons and organisations, that registration would not apply to RC models, or only RC models weighing more than 5, 10 or 15 kilograms.
The good news is that the recommendation mentions that high compliance rates can only be achieved with no or a very low fee. Furthermore, the requirement of registration does not give the FAA a free pass on restrictions of operations. However, the minimum age requirement for the owner/pilot is 13 years. Registration is owner-based, so you don’t have to register each and every model you own. If this recommendation comes to pass, you will however be required by law to affix your registration number to the model.
According to NBC News, the US Federal Government plans to enact mandatory registration of “drones”. Contrary to what you might think, they really mean privately purchased and owned Multicopters and other RC models. This registration is to be done with the US Department of Transportation, allegedly to curb incursions of such models into busy airspace.
FPV Racing is getting bigger and bigger, and in addition to 250-size RTF and ARF products, we are beginning to see highly integrated and lightweight 160-size ones as well, like this DYS X160 Micro FPV Racer from Banggood.
It features an integrated CC3D flight controller, 10A ESCs, a 200mW 5.8GHz video transmitter, CMOS Camera with 127 degree lens and a circular polarized antenna. You supply your own RC receiver as well as a 3S 1300mAh LiPo. Not too bad for $170, though a fully loaded 250-size racer can be had for $150.
The CIA started building tiny UAVs for intelligence gathering purposes as early as the 1970s, as can be seen on the official CIA Flickr gallery. Yes, they have a Flickr. And for the time period we’re talking about, the robotic fish is already quite advanced: Allowing for remote audio recording and retransmission, this water dweller even features depth control and autonomy, presumably to make it appear like a regular, living fish instead of sitting perfectly still.
Even more astounding is the prototype for a robotic dragonfly which was powered by a tiny gas engine, and was able to carry a microphone and even a laser. However, controlled flight was made difficult by even the slightest of crosswind, and the 60 second flight time further decreased operational feasability. What remains is a peculiar entry in the CIA museum.
You may recall some of the recent product news that involved fpvstyle.com. Well, as “recent” as the end of 2014. Since then, we received word from one of their business partners that they are “no longer associated” with fpvstyle.com, and in addition to that the website has been completely redone with all existing accounts and orders vanishing from their system.
That would not be a problem, were it not for the fact that apparently a number of customers never received their orders. Among them is a test purchase done by ourselves, dating back as far as December 2014. Our communications with FPVStyle were telling us that a delivery would surely take place soon, eventually passing the maximum time allowed by Paypal to reverse a charge. That time window has been shortened recently by Paypal, and may vary depending on where you live.
Interestingly, in all cases, once this happened FPVStyle stopped responding.
Since we not only got complaints about fpvstyle.com from other sources, but experienced the issues ourselves first-hand, we are posting a public notice about their current state of services.
Other retailers like Goodluckbuy or even HobbyKing have experienced problems in the past. However in both cases their support worked hard to get the products delivered to the customer amidst problems like shipping companies no longer transporting LiPo batteries or general IT system failures. What is not acceptable is for a support line to go silent.
If you are also still waiting for an order from fpvstyle.com to arrive, let us know.
3DR has just announced the Solo Quadcopter, a new camera drone with 1GHz CPU both inside the copter as well as the remote, and several unique features aimed at aerial videographers.
The Solo comes with a 5200mAh LiPo battery pack as well as full GoPro remote control capability. In addition to the usual GPS position hold and waypoint features, the Solo not only features HD video streaming but also an intuitive way to set waypoints, with the capability to “play back” camera flights at the touch of a button. The idea obviously is for the pilot to be able to set up a camera flight and then be able to recall the performance, including gimbal orientation and panning, simply by pressing “play”.
The remote comes with a built-in color OLET screen for telemetry data and setup as well as a tablet/phone mount. The price? $999 for the Solo itself, and another $399 for the gimbal. Not exactly a steal, but 3DR emphasizes the open nature of the product and its extensibility. These are the same guys who brought you the excellent PixHawk flight controller. Sales start in May in the US, and June/July in the rest of the world.
DJI just announced the release of their next update in the successful Phantom line, the Phantom 3.
It comes in two flavors, one with 4k video recording, the other with normal 1080p resolution. Both feature a new optical sensor that allows position hold indoors without GPS, as well as a faster charger and a bigger battery. Along with upgraded app support that includes livestreaming to youtube, this further solidifies DJI’s ambition to create the perfect flying camera.
The 4k version costs $1250, the 1080p can be yours for $999.