First, thanks to Casper for alerting me to this news…
Today, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released initial guidance for model aircraft operators. The official press release is below. From their website:
The FAA clarifies the special rules for model aircraft in the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. The FAA is issuing the notice to provide clear guidance to model operators on the “Dos” and “Don’ts” of flying safely in accordance with the Act and to answer many of the questions it has received regarding the scope and application of the rules.
In the Interpretation of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft document they released (dated June 18, 2014, they cited the background for the document as such:
The FAA is issuing this interpretation because we have received many inquiries regarding the scope of the special rule for model aircraft in section 336 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 and the FAA’s enforcement authority over model aircraft as affirmed by the statute. In this interpretation, we explain the history of FAA oversight of model aircraft operations and the new statutory requirements that apply to model aircraft operations, and then clarify how the FAA intends to apply its enforcement authority to model aircraft operations that endanger the safety of the National Airspace System (NAS).
They also took special interest in defining exactly the difference between what they consider to be hobby or recreational flying:
It gets even better. They make a specific point to call out their opinion of FPV flying…and it’s not good for us:
The FAA is aware that at least one community based organization permits “first person view” (FPV) operations during which the hobbyist controls the aircraft while wearing goggles that display images transmitted from a camera mounted in the front of the model aircraft. While the intent of FPV is to provide a simulation of what a pilot would see from the flight deck of a manned aircraft, the goggles may obstruct an operator’s vision, thereby preventing the operator from keeping the model aircraft within his or her visual line of sight at all times.
I highly recommend checking out the entire 17 page document found on the FAA website at http://www.faa.gov/about/initiatives/uas/media/model_aircraft_spec_rule.pdf
DON’T FORGET TO READ THE FOOTNOTES!!!!! 😉
Additionally, the FAA released this infographic to go along with their “guidance”. It’s a simplified breakdown of what they say is okay, vs not…
According to the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 as (1) the aircraft is flown strictly for hobby or recreational use; (2) the aircraft is operated in accordance with a community-based set of safety guidelines and within the programming of a nationwide community-based organization; (3) the aircraft is limited to not more than 55 pounds unless otherwise certified through a design, construction, inspection, flight test, and operational safety program administered by a community-based organization; (4) the aircraft is operated in a manner that does not interfere with and gives way to any manned aircraft; (5) when flown within 5 miles of an airport, the operator of the aircraft provides the airport operator and the airport air traffic control tower…with prior notice of the operation; and (6) the aircraft is flown within visual line sight of the operator.
Press Release – FAA Offers Guidance to Model Aircraft Operators
For Immediate Release
June 23, 2014
Contact: Les Dorr, Jr. or Alison Duquette
Phone: (202) 267-3883
Agency issues interpretation of 2012 Reauthorization Law, restates authority to take enforcement action against hazardous operations.
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) today published a Federal Register notice on its interpretation of the statutory special rules for model aircraft in the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. The guidance comes after recent incidents involving the reckless use of unmanned model aircraft near airports and involving large crowds of people.
Compliance with these rules for model aircraft operators has been required since the Act was signed on February 14, 2012, and the explanation provided today does not change that fact. The FAA is issuing the notice to provide clear guidance to model operators on the “do’s and don’ts” of flying safely in accordance with the Act and to answer many of the questions it has received regarding the scope and application of the rules.
“We want people who fly model aircraft for recreation to enjoy their hobby – but to enjoy it safely,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “At DOT, we often say that safety is a shared responsibility, so to help, we are providing additional information today to make sure model aircraft operators know exactly what’s expected of them.”
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.
“We have a mandate to protect the American people in the air and on the ground, and the public expects us to carry out that mission,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta.
The law is clear that the FAA may take enforcement action against model aircraft operators who operate their aircraft in a manner that endangers the safety of the national airspace system. In the notice, the FAA explains that this enforcement authority is designed to protect users of the airspace as well as people and property on the ground.
The FAA will be working with its inspectors and model aircraft operators across the country to ensure they give standard information to the public on how to satisfy these statutory requirements and avoid endangering the safety of the nation’s airspace.
The FAA is also developing a plan to work with the law enforcement community to help them understand the FAA’s rules for unmanned aircraft systems, as well as the special statutory rules for model aircraft operators, so they can more effectively protect public safety.
The agency wants the public to know how and when to contact the FAA regarding safety concerns with UAS operations. You can visit the Agency’sAviation Safety Hotline website or call 1-866-835-5322, Option 4.
While today’s notice is immediately effective, the agency welcomes comments from the public which may help further inform its analysis. The comment period for the notice will close 30 days from publication in the Federal Register. >View the notice