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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  1. FPV Model says:

    In China, China government just announced yesterday, the air height under 1000 meters will be deregulated allow for the private use and do not need to apply for permission. I think it is a great news for the FPV hobbyists.

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