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┬áthe 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.

Category: News

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FPVCentral is a private, independent news and review site for all things related to First Person View RC model flight. Covering everything from hobby, commercial and military drones, RC models and electronics related to FPV flight, we are not sponsored by any manufacturer or affiliated with any company or project.

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