EASA Explanatory Note shows US RC model flight was saved, but sacrificed in the EU

October 25, 2016 15:13 | By | Add a Comment

It is a sad day indeed when an explanatory note clarifies that while the new EASA restrictions include (and effectively kill) RC model flight as a hobby, AMA and FAA in the US apparently managed to come to a mutually acceptable compromise by excluding RC models from the harsh restrictions of “drones”, which typically are flown outside AMA-sanctioned RC flying sites.

FAA and EASA keep each other informed on their activities. Part 107 is the recently adopted FAA regulation for small unmanned aircraft systems below 25kg. It will create a process that will replace their present exemption process (around 3000 delivered). It corresponds broadly to our ‘open’ category.
Some common points: MTOM 25kg, operation VLOS; maximum altitude 400ft (we propose 500ft); competence requirements for the pilot;
Some differences: it does not apply to model aircraft when our prototype regulation does, it does not require geofencing or identification, no sub-categories, no essential requirements for design.

And again, there have been voices claiming that the Prototype Regulations don’t apply to RC models. This is not true:

Article 15 provides the transitional provisions for recreational operations of UA in the frame of associations or clubs (‘model aircraft’ operations).It is proposed that they can continue to operate as of today in accordance with National regulations or practices. After 3 years after the entry into force of the regulation an authorisation shall be issued by the national authorities to associations or clubs taking into account their safety record and defining limitations and deviations to the subpart B.

…and…

Excluding ‘model aircraft’ from these prototype rules would allow operators to declare their UA as a model and escape to the requirements, therefore opening a safety gap. It must be kept in mind that a significant number of incidents are caused by UA operated non-commercially.

If RC models were exempt from these regulations and the requirements to feature hard-wired geofencing with autopilot, redundant systems etc., then there would be no need for a transition period. As it stands, the proposal envisions the creation of “revenue” for compliance-businesses, meaning you are supposed to pay a company to certify your RC model. That is, after you equipped it with a GPS-driven autopilot that enforces geofencing, prevents climbing higher than 150 meters or accelerating faster than 50kph.

How could this be fixed? Simple, create a separate category for RC models flown at registered RC airfields and/or under supervision of a recognied, national RC association. At the same time, flight altitude limits at such sites could be lifted, enabling F3A competitions to be held without constantly violating an arbitrary 150m altitude limit. Registered RC flying fields should be entered into digital and traditional NOTAM databases, similarly to skyjumping sites for example.

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