Tag: FAA

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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FAA wants registration of all flying things heavier than 250 grams

FAA wants registration of all flying things heavier than 250 grams

November 24, 2015 14:48 | By | Add a Comment

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.

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FAA issues legal notice to FPV pilot putting footage onto Youtube

FAA issues legal notice to FPV pilot putting footage onto Youtube

March 16, 2015 11:45 | By | Add a Comment

The FAA has begun going after RC flight videos on Youtube showing onboard camera footage. Jayson Hanes has recently received a notification ordering him to cease his “unauthorized commercial flights”. Failure to do so could result in fines as much as USD $10.000,-

This office has received a complaint regarding your use of an unmanned aerial vehicle (aka drone) for commercial purposes referencing your video on the website youtube.com as evidence. After a review of your website, it does appear that the complaint is valid.

Hanes insists that while his videos on Youtube are technically monetized, he has not received a payment from Google yet.

This does raise all sorts of important questions: When exactly does a flight become “commercial” in nature. It’s even worse in countries like Austria, where the law states that as soon as the intent of flight goes beyond the “mere flight itself” (i.e. you fly because you want to photograph a sunset from the air), you’re not an RC hobbyist anymore but must register and pay for your vehicle as a UAV.

That the FAA would not be going after Youtube videos was an assumption that is still maintained by a large number of enthusiasts. Once established, it will be very difficult to reverse such a legal interpretation.

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FAA proposes new rules for small UAS

FAA proposes new rules for small UAS

February 15, 2015 18:34 | By | Add a Comment

The FAA has posted a proposed set of rules for allowing small UAS operation within the US.

Among those rules:

  • Unmanned aircraft must weigh less than 55 lbs. (25 kg).
  • First-person view camera cannot satisfy “see-and-avoid” requirement but can be used as long as requirement is satisfied in other ways.
  • Maximum airspeed of 100 mph (87 knots).
  • Maximum altitude of 500 feet above ground level.
  • Minimum weather visibility of 3 miles from control station.
Under the proposed rules, small UAS will require registrations and markings, just like regular airplanes. Operators will also have to…
  • Obtain an unmanned aircraft operator certificate with a small UAS rating (like existing pilot airman certificates, never expires).
  • Pass a recurrent aeronautical knowledge test every 24 months.
  • Be at least 17 years old.
  • Make available to the FAA, upon request, the small UAS for inspection or testing, and any a ssociated documents/records required to be kept under the proposed rule.
  • Report an accident to the F AA within 10 days of any operation that results in injury or property damage.
  • Conduct a preflight inspection, to include specific aircraft and control station systems checks, to ensure the small UAS is safe for operation
These rules do not apply to RC models. However, the FAA is adamant to state that any RC model not flown purely for recreation is to be considered a small UAS.
Full PDF proposal can be found here.

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Rescue organization loses against FAA drone ban

Rescue organization loses against FAA drone ban

July 19, 2014 13:02 | By | 2 Comments

The US rescue organization Texas Equusearch, an NGO founded by the father of a missing child, has lost a court case against the FAA’s recently released interpretation of the law on UAVs. They lost not because of factual evidence, but because the FAA’s release is the “legal opinion of the FAA” and not a “decision with legal ramnifications”.

This line of reasoning is quite interesting because the FAA is already sending cease and desist letters and emails to organizations known to use UAVs, so it’s kinda difficult to argue that the FAA was just stating an opinion vis-a-vis acting upon it.

The FAA’s side of the story is that they’re keeping the skies safe etc. etc. – not an unreasonable point to make, just not related to the issue at hand. After all, it’s not like drones aren’t already part of aviation today, so broadly restricting civilian use due to “possible safety issues” is not really a compelling argument while military flight tests are sometimes not even filed beforehand.

UPDATE: To clarify, and because vice.com missed the point of the court ruling entirely, and a blog post on dyidrones quoted vice.com verbatim: The court threw out the Equusearch vs. FAA case beforehand because they said the cease and desist letters were not “real” cease and desist letters under the law, and thus don’t trigger the possibility to sue against. Vice is incorrect when they say that Equusearch has “won” anything. On the contrary, there is now no way to legally challenge the FAA position until after they fined someone under these new “interpretations”.  If anything, the FAA won, because their motion to dismiss was granted.

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FAA updates rules on model aircraft

FAA updates rules on model aircraft

June 26, 2014 18:42 | By | 1 Comment

This news article from the FAA website is bad news for RC model pilots. If you remember the rather stringent rules laid out for RC enthusiasts in Austria, this will be very familiar to you.

In the notice, the FAA restates the law’s definition of “model aircraft,” including requirements that they not interfere with manned aircraft, be flown within sight of the operator and be operated only for hobby or recreational purposes. The agency also explains that model aircraft operators flying within five miles of an airport must notify the airport operator and air traffic control tower.

The FAA reaffirms that the Act’s model aircraft provisions apply only to hobby or recreation operations and do not authorize the use of model aircraft for commercial operations. The notice gives examples of hobby or recreation flights, as well as examples of operations that would not meet that definition.

The main thrust of the Interpretation Document (PDF) is this: RC model flight is meant for recreational purposes only. Any commercial use, monetization, flight beyond LOS or without the pilot having eyes on the craft, or flights for any reason other than your own personal recreation is strictly prohibited without a UAV license.

This means FPV flight is illegal in the USA, plain and simple. Doesn’t matter if you have a spotter. The Pilot’s eyes have to be on the model.

Are you a sponsored pilot? Then this bit is relevant to you as well:

Any operation not conducted strictly for hobby or recreation purposes could not be operated under the special rule for model aircraft. Clearly, commercial operations would not be hobby or recreation flights.
Likewise, flights that are in furtherance of a business, or incidental to a person’s business, would not be a hobby or recreation flight.
Flights conducted incidental to, and within the scope of, a business where no common carriage is involved, generally may operate under FAA’s general operating rules of part 91.
Although they are not commercial operations conducted for compensation or hire, such operations do not qualify as a hobby or recreation flight because of the nexus between the operator’s business and the operation of the aircraft.

Now is the time to act. The FAA is inviting comments, so be sure to make your voice heard. The AMA has already objected to the new developments.

Sadly, we here in Austria did not have a modeler’s lobbying group pushing for our rights. If you live in the US, please don’t repeat our mistake. Act now.

UPDATE: AMA response here (PDF).

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FAA cracks down on UAV demonstration at Kennedy Space Center

FAA cracks down on UAV demonstration at Kennedy Space Center

May 12, 2014 9:10 | By | Add a Comment

It was planned as a rich demonstration of civilian UAV technology, but the FAA once again stepped in and made sure as few people as possible got to see it.

Last Sunday, the Exploration Park of the Kennedy Space Center was abuzz with drones of all types and sizes, thanks to the “Aerospace Research Challenge” hosted by Space Florida. The AUVSI tries to raise awareness about the commercial use of drones and the need for more open regulations. It’s a bitter irony that the very thing they are currently fighting hindered this demonstration: The FAA cracked down on the event, imposing strict rules that basically ensured that the large crowd of interested individuals got very little to see. Observers trying to see the actual flight demonstrations were ushered out by the FAA, for “safety reasons”. And even at a respectable distance observers were asked to leave.

A few TV cameras were allowed to record the actual flights. Each drone had to be controlled by two pilots, both were required to have a full pilots license plus medical flight status certification.  The FAA justified their restrictions pointing to recent incidents of careless individuals flying rc models near airports.

Tomorrow, the AUVSI will host the Unmanned Systems 2014 in Orlando, where the topic of current US regulations is going to be a hot topic.

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FAA announces investigation into drone flying at 4/20 rally in Denver

FAA announces investigation into drone flying at 4/20 rally in Denver

April 23, 2014 8:51 | By | 1 Comment

The 4/20 marijuana rally in Denver was scene to a nervous and typical reaction by US authorities to a private hexacopter with a camera flying overhead and filming the event.

Denver police say they found two unidentified men flying a drone over the rally in Denver’s Civic Center Park. The men were asked to leave the top of the McNichols Civic Center Building because they didn’t have the proper permission.

Greenshot_2014-04-23_09-36-16

The FAA is now investigating this event, issuing several statements alleging that even private, non-commercial use of model aircraft may be a problem – if they don’t want you to, of course.

“Anyone who wants to fly an aircraft — manned or unmanned — in U.S. airspace needs some level of authorization from the FAA. Routine operation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems over densely-populated areas is not allowed,” the FAA said in a statement.

Did the persons operating the hexacopter fly below 400ft AGL? We don’t know, but it appears the burden of proof is on the side of the FAA. However, it is disturbing to see the FAA mix and match regulations from manned flight operations, controlled airspace and commercial UAV regulations and apply bits and pieces to effectively claim that they are to be asked for permission for any flying thing. The fact of the matter however is that they are not, and while flying a multirotor craft over a public event may not be the most politically sensitive thing to do, it remains to be seen whether the FAA can substantiate their claims – or whether they’ll just wait until new, restrictive regulations are being passed into law. The FAA has issued a fact sheet regarding the use of UAVs, which of course does nothing to substantiate whether a flight such as in Denver is illegal or not. It should be noted that no arrests were made, and all the police could do was to “ask” the pilots to leave the roof of the building from which they were controlling the craft.

Our guess is that the US will see restrictive regulations and classifications eerily similar to the ones recently passed in Austria.

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Trappy’s lawyer responds to FAA allegations

Trappy’s lawyer responds to FAA allegations

December 12, 2013 12:08 | By | Add a Comment

The lawyer of Team Blacksheep founder “Trappy” has filed a “memorandum of law supporting his motion to dismiss” in response to the complaint by the FAA. In case you have not been following this legal fight, the FAA wants to fine Trappy for flying a RC foam wing on a university campus for money. They can’t seem to make up their minds whether it was the “reckless flying” or the fact that Trappy was financially compensated by the land owner – operating an RC model aircraft for any kind of financial gain is a hot topic in the US right now.

As a substitute for the unenforceable policy statement, the FAA retreats to last-resort arguments granting itself the extraordinary power to regulate and penalize the operation of any device found in the air, at any location, and without prior notice to the public. This overextension is based on two seemingly simple but completely flawed premises: first, that the definition of “aircraft” in 14 C.F.R. § 1.1 is so broad that it has always included model aircraft, and, second, that the FAA’s jurisdiction extends to activity conducted even an inch above the ground and inside tunnels — locations outside the navigable airspace.

Both of these propositions fail as a matter of law. The definition of “aircraft” is expressly stated in section 1.1 to rely upon context, and that context is unquestionably manned operations.

The full text of the reply can be read here

One of the core arguments right now is whether or not the FAA is responsible for airspace below 700 feet, a question that was raised on Gigaom.com a few days ago.

Whether or not this will end up saving Trappy the $10.000 fine the FAA demands him to pay remains to be seen.

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Petition the US Government to allow commercial UAS use

Petition the US Government to allow commercial UAS use

December 9, 2013 8:56 | By | Add a Comment

There’s a petition on change.gov regarding the commercial use of unmanned platforms outside populated areas.

The FAA is hampering economic growth, job creation and scientific development by not allowing commercial entities to operate small unmanned aircraft systems. Current FAA plans will not allow commercial SUAS use until September of 2015.

We propose:

– Immediate action by the FAA to lift the blanket ban on commercial UAS systems under 10 lbs. outside of populated areas, under 400 feet and two miles away from airports.

– The creation and support of a self-regulating organization that will train and oversee SUAS operations, similar to the American Radio Relay League. This will allow the industry to quickly adapt while maintaining safety, security and privacy.

If you live in the US and want to sign, click here.

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Editorial: hobby FPV pilots, FAA and Amazon, oh my

Editorial: hobby FPV pilots, FAA and Amazon, oh my

December 4, 2013 13:00 | By | 1 Comment

This week was abuzz with the news about Amazon supposedly giving serious thought to using multicopters as delivery tools. Aside from the obvious fact that this was an extremely well-executed advertisement, with amazon getting as much as a full page in every major newspaper for free, there are so many unanswered questions surrounding this proposed delivery method that one might question the seriousness of this whole idea.

And the FAA, finally waking up from their ten-year slumber, struggles to cope with the sudden onslaught of news stories about farmers using small UAS for monitoring crops, checking up on their cattle, etc. – something sparked off by recent movies perhaps. And interestingly enough, the FAA now timidly endorses the use of said agricultural drones.

With other countries such as Canada now also contemplating on how to regulate civilian drone use, private commercial and non-commercial FPV is far from saved. In fact, many countries have now enacted rules that either heavily regulate commercial RC and FPV flights, enact restrictive altitude and range limits for non-commercial RC vehicles, or both. One thing is clear: Nobody wants to endanger any lives. The problem is that heavyhanded regulation is not an answer to such safety concerns, as there are already plenty of laws and regulations regarding civilian air traffic control. Nor do we need new laws to solve “privacy issues”. In most countries it’s already illegal to film people in their home without their consent, or similar things that politicians are adamant about trying to protect us from.

You’ll notice that the state always tries to reserve the right to invade your privacy, to keep us all safe of course. And yet serious privacy transgressions almost always are the result of misuse of such authority. Perhaps it’s time to tell people to stop worrying about a RC model pilot “filming your bedroom”, but instead start worrying about the future police and state-owned UAVs recording details of your private life to, say, use against you if the government deems it useful to their current goal.

To that end, why is it that so many countries make a difference between private RC flight, and commercial RC flight? What difference does it make if the pilot of an RC airplane or helicopter earns money with his flight or not? Why does it stop being a “model aircraft” as soon as money is involved?

Back when the printing press made it possible to break the monopoly of a select few on producing books and spreading information, their reaction was one of agressive counter-attack. Printing presses were something that needed to be “regulated”. When the internet made it possible for people to instantly share information and directly communicate, this too became a tool of power – and like any such tool, once its potential was realized by the people in power, they sought control over it.

RC model aircraft, with or without cameras, are much the same. They were regarded as toys for over 50 years, but now that we know how to use them as the empowering information-gathering and utility tools they are, the powers-that-be seek to control and regulate. But make no mistake: This is not something that will be limited to multicopters and RC vehicles with cameras. RC flight as a whole runs the risk of being the victim of severe restrictions, none of which having anything to do with the safety of manned flight or the privacy of individuals.

RC flight should not be limited any more than necessary, which means line of sight and within visual range. Conversely, the use of police and state operated drones should be heavily regulated and under constant public scrutiny. In the whole private/commercial FPV and UAV debate, we may well run the risk of compromising too much.

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