Tag: Law

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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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.

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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.

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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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NoFlyZone.org lets you blacklist your home from consumer UAV traffic

NoFlyZone.org lets you blacklist your home from consumer UAV traffic

February 24, 2015 11:16 | By | Add a Comment

The private website noflyzone.org allows private property owners to put their house and garden onto a blacklist, which will then be used by several multicopter manufacturers in their firmware to establish no-fly zones and prevent their products from being operated within, or fly over, the blacklisted areas.

This is a lot like what DJI is doing with their hardcoded airport locations and certain locations like the white house now being off-limits and blocked on a firmware level.

Listing your property on noflyzone.org is free, however you have to re-confirm your entry once per year. Strangely enough, the website does not require you to provide proof of your claim unless you submit more than one. However, you can also whitelist your property and prevent others from blacklisting it again.

Among the manufacturers using the blacklist data are Horizon Hobby, Hexo+ and PixiePath.

It remains to be seen how useful such a list is. Not only are there ways to circumvent the blacklist, but not all vendors and open source projects are on board with this. And to make matters worse, a lot of fly-away situations happen because of sensor issues (like GPS glitches or the DJI Phantom magnetometer design flaw). During such malfunctions, the craft can and will violate pre-programmed no-fly zones because its navigation is malfunctioning. It feels a lot like “gun free zones”. Knowing that this blacklist won’t prevent malfunctioning drones, nor drones flown with the intent of violating privacy, nor any government UAVs from hovering over your lawn, we have to ask: What’s the point?

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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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NZ RC enthusiast forbidden from testing his selfmade Sense and Avoid system

NZ RC enthusiast forbidden from testing his selfmade Sense and Avoid system

July 4, 2014 14:04 | By | 1 Comment

Bruce Simpson, aka XJet on youtube, was planning to test his long-promised “Sense and Avoid” system. This system was meant to allow UAVs to sense approaching vehicles and prevent collisions between FPV UAVs and other models or full size aircraft. His plan was to use low-power 2.4GHz transmissions as a sort of cheap radar system. Asking for permission to perform these tests on the local Tokoroa airfield yielded a hard “no” from the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the South Waikato District Council (SWDC).

To quote Bruce:

They claim that the mere 35mW transmissions on the 2.4GHz band associated with my SAA testing would make flying RC model jets unacceptably risky – yet the very people flying them are all wandering around with wifi-enabled smartphones capable of putting out 200mW each on the same frequencies, and the average microwave oven in nearby houses may churn out almost a watt of noise by way of leakage — or at least that’s what Wikipedia claims here:

Bruce is by no means an unknown person in the RC community. He’s best known for his original pulsejet designs, the pulsejet go-cart, and his audacious plans to publish a book on how to build a DIY cruise missile, which resulted in him getting slapped with everything from letters from the US embassy to sudden tax fraud investigations.

Link to the local newspaper article and a video message from Bruce after the break.

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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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EU Commission working on stricter rules for drones

EU Commission working on stricter rules for drones

April 9, 2014 14:03 | By | 2 Comments

The European Commission has today proposed to set tough new standards to regulate the operations of civil drones (or “remotely piloted aircraft sytems” – RPAS). The new standards will cover safety, security, privacy, data protection, insurance and liability. The aim is to allow European industry to become a global leader in the market for this emerging technology, while at the same time ensuring that all the necessary safeguards are in place.

Civil drones are increasingly being used in Europe, in countries such as Sweden, France and the UK, in different sectors, but under a fragmented regulatory framework. Basic national safety rules apply, but the rules differ across the EU and a number of key safeguards are not addressed in a coherent way.

Vice-President Siim Kallas, Commissioner for mobility and transport, said: “Civil drones can check for damage on road and rail bridges, monitor natural disasters such as flooding and spray crops with pinpoint accuracy. They come in all shapes and sizes. In the future they may even deliver books from your favourite online retailer. But many people, including myself, have concerns about the safety, security and privacy issues relating to these devices.”

The technology for civil drones is maturing and there is potential for significant growth and job creation. On some estimates in the next 10 years it could be worth 10% of the aviation market — that’s €15 billion per year. The Vice-President added, “If ever there was a right time to do this, and to do this at a European level, it is now. Because remotely piloted aircraft, almost by definition, are going to cross borders and the industry is still in its infancy. We have an opportunity now to make a single set of rules that everyone can work with, just like we do for larger aircraft.”

 

So much for the press release by the European Commission. Interestingly, nobody talks about regulating the sale and use of ladders, to help prevent people from peeking into your bedroom. If anyone was hoping for a liberal, progressive stance on the private and commercial use of UAVs by the EU Commission, today’s news is less than positive, to put it mildly.

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UK drone hobbyist fined 4340 pounds for flying over submarine shipyard

UK drone hobbyist fined 4340 pounds for flying over submarine shipyard

April 3, 2014 8:11 | By | Add a Comment

Robert Knowles is the first UK citizen to be charged under the new CAA rules which forbid flying remote aircraft beyond 500 meters of range and 121 meters altitude. In addition, he apparently lost control over his delta-wing plane after which it splashed into the waters near a BAE assembly facility for nuclear submarines. Prosecutors also fined him for flying within 50 meters of a building, which in this case was Walney Bridge near Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, during that same flight.

The court ordered a fine of £800 for violating the Air Navigation Order, a £40 surcharge, as well as court costs to the tune of £3500. Knowles was convicted in absence and has stated to be considering an appeal, citing possible outside influence as being the cause for the loss of control, and the subsequent flight near the BAE plant.

BAE

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