Category: News

New Regulations, Fake Drone Strikes, Oh My

New Regulations, Fake Drone Strikes, Oh My

July 25, 2017 16:20 | By | Add a Comment

Welp, I certainly didn’t update the site as much as I should have. So much has happened in the past months.

Perhaps the biggest development is that we see the things coming to pass that have been set in motion way back in 2014/15, when meetings between FAA, Eurocontrol and several other national authorities set the tone on what they wanted in terms of drone regulation: Everything needs to be registered, everything needs to be grouped into one of several classes of drones, and everything needs to be restricted in flight altitude, speed, and other capabilities. Back then, they set themselves a time horizon of just 5 years. It’s 2017 and we’re well under way:

The EASA NPA is perhaps the most prominent example right now, containing a very comprehensive list of regulations that curiously affects mostly the traditional RC model pilots. Why? Because the most popular FPV quadcopters right now are already below 250 grams. However, people flying regular RC planes at RC airfields suddenly find themselves lumped into a class of UAV that requires them to pass an online exam, not fly above 150 meters (say good bye to F3A competitions for example), require registration of the pilot AND every RC model separately, etc.
It’s better than the horrible “Prototype Regulation” they put out before, but only moderately so. Still, there’s an optional “Article 14” that allows national authorities to allow “deviations” for RC model pilots. These deviations are not limited to anything, so they can be everything – but your local authority may as well just refuse to grant you any.

At the same time, regulators such as the CAA New Zealand have started to resort to a new tactic: Since no actual drone strike happened so far (aside from a few close calls by irresponsible idiots), they actually faked a drone strike. No joke. Look at this completely undamaged Phantom and the massive force it somehow exerted on the exhaust pipe of a helicopter:

Why do they fake such incidents? Because there’s a lot of money to be made of course. Forcing everyone to pay for registration, licensing and other administrative overhead is a big business, something that kinda blew up in the face of the FAA since they now have to pay back over 700.000 registrated RC pilots the registration fees that the FAA was not actually legally allowed to collect from them.

Which brings me to to our new European interest group, the EMFU. With the threat finally realized by everyone involved, I’m happy to report that I’m part of the EMFU and helping as a volunteer, both writing and responding to policy and technical issues. The EMFU was founded because this is a battle that won’t be over next year, there will always be a new piece of proposed legislation or additional restrictions that we have to fight or help reshape so that they don’t completely destroy our hobby. This is also not something that one or the other group of pilots doesn’t have to care about – even if your favorite model is not covered by current restrictions, new ones might be passed tomorrow that make your hobby completely illegal.

What we’re doing right now is try and make sure that we all can continue to fly with as little additional restrictions as possible. We all agree that air traffic safety is paramount, but at the same time RC pilots flying responsibly at an RC flying site have never, ever, posed a threat to aviation – and this has been true for close to 100 years. This is also a matter of draconian rules only affecting the law-abiding pilots, not the ones who do stupid things. People who do do stupid things can already be punished by existing laws. People who don’t care about laws or safety won’t care about additional restrictions either.

The good news is that EASA is not really against RC model flight. Their updated NPA shows that they took the massive amounts of feedback they received (I was told over 800 comments were emailed to them just from RC modelers) and worked them into their proposal, or alluded to them in writing. For example, they specifically stated that a division between “classic RC planes” and “multicopters” is not useful, nor is a separation between RC craft that are flown with electronic stabilization and ones flying with direct manual control helpful in determining what is or is not to be regulated. There’s a certain tendency in some countries to try and distance RC airplanes and helicopters from multirotors and FPV flight, for example in germany. Over there, you can only fly higher than 100m if you are not flying a multicopter. This of course backfired, and it didn’t take longer than two months for both the German DFS and their pilots association to proclaim that the new restrictions are not going far enough. Regulators don’t care if you fly a wooden RC biplane or an electronically stabilized multirotor.

I’m happy to say that the EMFU is aware of this. I hope we’re not already too late. We all certainly need to step up our game in terms of getting the word out that no, RC flight is actually one of the safest hobbies there is, and yes, there are powerful interests lined up against us that seem to not shy away from staging incidents to get the public to agree with restrictions that won’t make anyone safer.

Read more and comment

FAA celebrates 616.000 RC model registrations

FAA celebrates 616.000 RC model registrations

December 22, 2016 13:36 | By | Add a Comment

Back in December 2015 the Federal Aviation Administration launched their drone registration program for hobbyists. Since then, every rc model pilot must register themselves after a short online questionnaire. Registration is subject to a $5 fee, which is a recurring charge.

Now, a year later, the total count is up to 616.000, although the FAA doesn’t disclose any details like whether or not commercial drone operators are included in this count or not.  For the FAA this is a big success: Not only can they book this as a boon for flight safety, but regularly getting 3 Million USD for running a simple website is a fantastic business idea. We’re written about why registration solves nothing, but the FAA insists that their short online quiz makes hobbyists fly safer.

Read more and comment

Dronegun is yet another broadband jammer with a yagi antenna

Dronegun is yet another broadband jammer with a yagi antenna

November 29, 2016 15:27 | By | Add a Comment

There’s more and more companies trying to get into the business of getting drones out of the sky. Consumer models, to be precise – because military UAV with satcom links can not be affected by this.

In essence, Dronegun is yet another GPS+2.4GHz+5.8GHz jammer with a Yagi antenna. The company behind this product, Droneshield, is offering solutions for detection and classification of UAS. They claim that Dronegun will “make the drone land or return home”, and that drones forced to land will remain intact for investigation.

The fact of the matter is that these devices are highly illegal and in many ways more dangerous than the drones they are supposed to protect airports from. Even though the Yagi antennas used are highly directional, the fact that they jam both the usual ISM bands as well as GPS means that this is a severe risk to the operation of a multitude of systems and even aircraft. While it’s true that GPS is not approved for primary navigation, the fact of the matter is that it has become an indispensable part of air navigation, and willful disruptions of GPS may end up at the start of a chain of events that lead to loss of life.

The other problem is that targeted UAVs won’t just land or even return home. In most cases they will veer out of control and/or crash. In essence, using such a device WILL cause accidents, not make the drone land as they show in that video. The only question is whether luck has it that nobody is harmed, or there’s damage to property or loss of life. It is a classic case of “they didn’t think this one through”.

Droneshield is run by former US military and government members, including the former Deputy National Security Advistor for Vice President Dick Cheney.

The hungarian military was known to purposefully jam the 30MHz band to cause RC models to crash, which caused the death of two people. Jamming makes accidents a certainty, and selling such products as a solution to the problem of unauthorized operation of UAVs is questionable.

 

Read more and comment

BBC Series “Casualty” depicts typical drone scare scenario

BBC Series “Casualty” depicts typical drone scare scenario

November 22, 2016 13:43 | By | Add a Comment

BBC One’s TV drama series “Casualty” recently took up that whole drone topic, and decided to go for a fair and balanced, even realistic depiction of the difficulties and challenges of the growing popularity of hobby multirotor models.

Except no, that’s not what happened. Instead they went all-out on the ultimate drone scare scenario: small toy multicopter collides with full scale helicopter and sets off a chain of event that causes massive destruction and loss of life, complete with buildings collapsing.

If you really want to see this fearmongering sequence, check it out after the break. And always remember: RC toys are extremely dangerous and can kill hundreds of people. At least, according to BBC.

Read more and comment

European Model Flight Union founded to represent RC modelers throughout Europe

European Model Flight Union founded to represent RC modelers throughout Europe

November 10, 2016 11:15 | By | Add a Comment

In light of the recent activities and proposals by EASA, the German Aeroclub and the Austrian Aeroclub, in collaboration with nine other national RC model associations, founded the European Model Flight Union (EMFU). The goal of the EMFU is twofold:

  1. Collaborate with EASA on the development of regulations that keep our hobby unharmed
  2. Forming a comittee that represents the interests of the RC model sport on an international level

Because time is of the essence (in fact it’s running out already), the EMFU has been fast-tracked into existence and two representatives (Bruno Delor from France, David Phipps from England) have been named to represent the EMFU in coming meetings with EASA. So far, EASA has welcomed this development, as they finally have someone to talk to on a european level, instead of having to discuss matters with each national association. The EMFU currently has 11 member organizations, and is open for any RC model association to join.

Our take is that this is an excellent development – albeit a very, very late one. It’s sad that it took the threat of a regulation that would kill the entire hobby for the various associations to start pulling in a common direction. It is great however, that this is finally happening, and we wish the EMFU the very best in their task to keep this hobby free and legal.

Let’s hope it’s not too late.

Read more and comment

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

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.

Read more and comment

Sweden passes restrictive rules for “camera drones”

Sweden passes restrictive rules for “camera drones”

October 25, 2016 14:58 | By | Add a Comment

The use of camera-carrying RC models, multicopters and drones has been ruled illegal by the Supreme Administrative Court in Sweden. In addition to requiring a license, they are now classified as “surveillance cameras”, requiring them to adhere to the same rules regarding privacy protection as a camera that’s set up for 24/7 monitoring. Interestingly enough, mobile phones equipped with cameras are not classified as surveillance cameras, neither are cameras mounted overhead swedish highways.

Overnight, FPV flying has been ruled illegal in Sweden.

Read more and comment

EASA Prototype Regulations would put an end to RC model flight as we know it

EASA Prototype Regulations would put an end to RC model flight as we know it

October 9, 2016 19:02 | By | Add a Comment

For some months now, EASA has been at work trying to fix a perceived loophole in previous legislation drafts: Hobbyists and tinkerers who “hack their drones” to “fly further, higher, faster”. This is seen in Brussels as a great risk, so EASA was asked to come up with a regulation that would form the grounds for anti-modification legislation.

Enter the “EASA Prototype Regulations”. These regulations define four categories (A0, A1, A2 and A3) with increasing capabilities and restrictions. For example, A0 allows you to fly without registration, but you are limited to 250 grams takeoff weight, and you can’t fly higher than 50 meters. Category A3 allows you to fly up to 150 meters but your RC model needs to be equipped with a GPS geofencing function that cannot be turned off. This means that if you have an old wooden glow engine model or a scale jet, it needs to have a GPS and an autopilot on board. And you can’t fly higher than 150 meters. And you need to be at least 50 meters away from spectators (20m for rotor craft).

Don’t like this? Write EASA, todayUASPrototypeRule@easa.europa.eu

Check the detailed regulations after the break.

Read more and comment

New Review up: Walkera Rodeo 150

New Review up: Walkera Rodeo 150

June 24, 2016 15:26 | By | Add a Comment

Check out the Walkera Rodeo 150 in our full review!

 

FAA Reauthorization Act 2016 proposal includes FAA exams for RC pilots

FAA Reauthorization Act 2016 proposal includes FAA exams for RC pilots

March 16, 2016 9:49 | By | 1 Comment

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.

Read more and comment

FAA extends Washington no-fly zone, kills a dozen model clubs in one swoop

FAA extends Washington no-fly zone, kills a dozen model clubs in one swoop

December 30, 2015 1:23 | By | Add a Comment

Think the news about RC model registration was bad? The FAA was just getting started.

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.

newfaabandc

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.

Read more and comment

Multicopter almost hits Marcel Hirscher during slalom race

Multicopter almost hits Marcel Hirscher during slalom race

December 23, 2015 14:00 | By | Add a Comment

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.

drone-skier

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.

Read more and comment

Why drone registration solves nothing

Why drone registration solves nothing

December 22, 2015 11:50 | By | 2 Comments

“Drone registration”, as the FAA calls it, makes a lot of sense. That is, until you start thinking about it beyond the usual talking points. Here’s why it actually does not solve any problems whatsoever.

Read more and comment

Germany follows US, proposes strict new laws

Germany follows US, proposes strict new laws

December 18, 2015 17:22 | By | Add a Comment

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.

Read more and comment

FAA Drone Registration going online December 21st, up to $270.000 penalty for unregistered pilots after February

FAA Drone Registration going online December 21st, up to $270.000 penalty for unregistered pilots after February

December 14, 2015 21:40 | By | Add a Comment

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.

Read more and comment