Congress Destroys A Hobby, FAA Gets The Blame

As ordered by the US Congress, the FAA is gearing up to set forth a standard for commercial UAVs, Unmanned Aerial Systems, and commercial drones operating in America’s airspace. While they’ve been dragging their feet, and the laws and rules for these commercial drones probably won’t be ready by 2015, that doesn’t mean the FAA can’t figure out what the rules are for model aircraft in the meantime.

This week, the FAA released its interpretation (PDF) of what model aircraft operators can and can’t do, and the news isn’t good: FPV flights with quadcopters and model airplanes are now effectively banned, an entire industry centered around manufacturing and selling FPV equipment and autopilots will be highly regulated, and a great YouTube channel could soon be breaking the law.

The FAA’s interpretation of what model aircraft can and cannot do, and to a larger extent, what model aircraft are comes from the FAA Modernization And Reform Act Of 2012 (PDF). While this law states the, “…Federal Aviation Administration may
not promulgate any rule or regulation regarding a model aircraft…” it defines model aircraft as, “an unmanned aircraft that is capable of sustained flight in the atmosphere; flown within visual line of sight of the person operating the aircraft; and flown for hobby or recreational purposes.” The FAA has concluded that anything not meeting this definition, for example, a remote controlled airplane with an FPV setup, or a camera, video Tx and Rx, and video goggles, is therefore not a model aircraft, and falls under the regulatory authority of the FAA.

In addition, the FAA spent a great deal of verbiage defining what, “hobby or recreational purposes” in regards to model aircraft are. A cited example of a realtor using a model aircraft to take videos of a property they are selling is listed as not a hobby or recreation, as is a farmer using a model aircraft to see if crops need water. Interestingly, receiving money for demonstrating aerobatics with a model aircraft is also not allowed under the proposed FAA guidelines, a rule that when broadly interpreted could mean uploading a video of yourself flying a model plane, uploading that to YouTube, and clicking the ‘monetize’ button could soon be against the law. This means the awesome folks at Flite Test could soon be out of a job.

The AMA, the Academy Of Model Aeronautics, and traditionally the organization that sets the ‘community-based set of safety guidelines’ referred to in every law dealing with model aircraft, are not happy with the FAA’s proposed rules (PDF). However, their objection is a breathless emotional appeal calls the proposed rules a, “a strict regulatory approach to the operation of model aircraft in the hands of our youth and elderly members.” Other than offering comments per the FAA rulemaking process there are, unfortunately, no possible legal objections to the proposed FAA rules, simply because the FAA is doing exactly what congress told them to do.

The FAA is simply interpreting the Modernization And Reform Act Of 2012 as any person would: FPV goggles interfere with the line of sight of an aircraft, thus anyone flying something via FPV goggles falls under the regulatory authority of the FAA. Flying over the horizon is obviously not line of sight, and therefore not a model aircraft. Flying a model aircraft for money is not a hobby or recreation, and if you’re surprised about this, you simply aren’t familiar with FAA rules about money, work, and person-sized aircraft.

While the proposed FAA rules are not yet in effect, and the FAA is seeking public comment on these rules, if passed there will, unfortunately, exactly two ways to fix this. The first is with a change in federal law to redefine what a model aircraft is. Here’s how to find your congresscritter, with the usual rules applying: campaign donations are better than in-person visits which are better than letters which are better than phone calls which are better than emails. They’ll also look up if you have voted in the last few elections.

If passed, the only other way these rules will align with the privileges model aircraft enthusiasts have enjoyed for decades is through a court ruling. The lawsuit objecting to these rules will most likely be filed by the AMA, and if these rules pass, a donation or membership wouldn’t be a bad idea.

177 thoughts on “Congress Destroys A Hobby, FAA Gets The Blame

      1. The thing to do if you are an AMERICAN CITIZEN, IF YOU BELIEVE IN THE ACTIONS OF OUR FOREFATHERS,Then now is the time to revolt en mass! Fly your FPV planes! Fly in large groups to stymie the actions of the “gestapo” To cave in is to give up your God given right to “life, liberty,and the pursuit of happiness” . In the interim, call up your Representative and Senator AND RAISE HELL! This bunch we currently have in Washington that are supposedly representing “WE THE PEOPLE” are representing anything but! ,

  1. Not really surprising given all this is also banned in europe since some time.
    In France some people have allready been charged while flying a drone over the Eiffel tower or photographying a backyard. Nobody flies hobby model since then.
    The hobby model industry like in the us never born here. Our governments obviously want to continue to sell licences for aerial photography and such (another dying industry without these rules)

    1. So in Germany, and I think in the rest of the EU, it is allowed to fly drones over your own ground up to 50m. It is not allowed to fly over the heads of humans and ground witch isn’t yours. It’s also forbidden to film other people without their agreement. You can flight hobby model aircraft’s and drones with a licence and over ground witch is “freigegeben”(sorry doesn’t remember the word)

      1. The rules are completely different between countries in Europe, as far as I’m aware this isn’t something the EU regulates itself. In the UK you can fly them up to 120m, but there’s rules on how far from the operator they can be flown. Also, if being done for commercial purposes, you need to register with the CAA

      2. This is nonsense!
        Are you talking about commercial usage of drones/rc-planes?
        In Germany you are allowed fly as high as 762m!! (2500 ft) over ground in unregulated air space.
        Also you’re allowed to fly over ground that isn’t yours but you need the permission of the owner of the place where you start/land.
        You’re not allowed to fly over crowds, though flying over over houses/roads is allowed (electrical motors).
        Shooting videos from your drone/plane is also handled relatively liberal in Germany.
        All this rules only apply to hobby use only and you need a special insurance (<5kg weight, ~40€/year) !

  2. Sad thing is, no matter what ruling they come to, someone will always be there to bitch about it.

    This could have been handled slightly better but they’re not doing anything wrong per se—except that while goggles do interfere with viewing an aircraft, it’s still capable of being flown without them, so if the person flying it is wearing the goggles then yeah that would put it outside the bounds of approval.

    I’ve never had the opportunity to really fly something with a camera (so dang expensive) but I’ve remotely flown a few things before and am certainly hoping to some day be able to do a fpv uav. (:

    1. Actually, I’d argue that they are doing something seriously wrong. Any regulation like this should exist for a legitimate reason (primarily, public safety or to ensure everyone is able to make use of a shared resource).

      While I can understand that “drones” which are heavy enough and fly high enough can be a threat to other aircraft and people on the ground, that isn’t universally true of all “drones”. There is no excuse for not having an exemption for extremely light builds designed without sharp points that focus the force of impact if it were to fall on someone/something. Such exemptions can already be found in FAA regulations for things like high altitude weather balloons and would, at least, allow foamies (one of the more popular segments of the RC/FPV community along with being the cheapest to get into).

      This setup is a recklessly ham-fisted club of regulatory code and a particular disgrace when you take into account how many years the FAA has dragged ass throughout this entire process.

      1. They do have legitimate concerns that they are addressing.

        Flying without line of site limits your ability to spot potential hazards or people, increasing your chance of hitting someone. As long as they allow licensing I don’t see what the problem is. Sure it’ll make a hobby harder, but radio operators already have to get licenses, and all it seems to have done is minimise the number of idiots screwing things up for everyone else.

        1. I’m not sure I agree with this from a safety point of view. It depends on how much of an idiot the pilot is. I personally find it much harder to control a model quad line of sight than I do via FPV. The main problem is identifying which way the device is facing. Even the best pilots will have a brainfade and get this wrong. Using FPV on the other hand, forward is forward, left is left, right is right etc. Your reference frame is the craft so pilot error is reduced.

          Now again that says nothing for idiots flying backwards in a crowded area. But legislation can’t deal with stupid.

          1. Let me get this straight – you actually THINK registering with the FAA is going to make the hobby safer? Really? All its going to do it “Tax” you $5, and yet another tax on top of the taxes we pay. The FAA is NOT going to promote safety – the AMA has been doing this for YEARS and actually provide resources. What little is on the FAA site is nothing more than what they stole from the AMA. Call it what it is… Another tax and another searchable database with my name in it.

            Lastly – idiots will be idiots whether they are registered or not. And the intentional idiot will not register anyway. Nothing accomplished but taxing the American people…

      2. It’s not just about the size-weight of these things—it’s about putting cameras without limits in people’s hands. And whatever else you could imagine attaching to a small aerial device, like say a weapon… -shrugs-

      3. “Oh Bummah” or his handlers probably realised that since they set the precedent of droning everyone they do not like for whatever CLASSIFIED reasons, people might learn from their betters – and now they want to plug that hole?

  3. That is quiet the same here in Germany and many other European states. As soon as you get money or for flying or you use images that were taken from a model aircraft, you are commercial operating. That is connected to other rules, expensive insurances and you have to get a kind of license from your responsible institution.

    Concerning FPV it is similar as the FAA rules, expect that you are allowed to fly as long there is a “spotter” that can take over the controls and he/she is not using any visual helpers.

    You see we have the same problems here, but have already rules implemented for professional usage of multirotors.

    1. and by that same token, you wouldn’t complain one bit if some unlicensed idiot wrapped a 20Kg drone around your child’s face. What’s with all the knee-jerk reaction people? Any new tech that can have negative impact on the lives or ordinary people must be controlled to prevent eejits from impinging on the liberties of the innocent.

      1. What’s with the instant jump to hyperbole? There’s quite a bit of room between “flying a pov remote controlled quadcopter” and “wrapping a 20Kg drone around your child’s face.” On balance, making things illegal is a BadThing that only makes sense when it legitimately protects the rights and freedoms of others from as you say “eejits.” That case has not been clearly made.

      2. But you can make that argument about anything. We should ban lawnmowers because kids might get hurt. We should ban facebook because it can be used to harass children. The arguments go on and on. We already have rules for accidental and willful harm to individuals and their property. Making laws for every new technology is not only impractical but dangerous. Laws like this are the real knee-jerk reaction. The fact that you center your statement around children shows that you are making an emotional and knee-jerk reaction. I would like to point out that new drone technology changes nothing about how easy it is to hurt someone with a flying model. I am sure accidents have happened with unreliable RC controllers in RF noisy environments already.

        1. IT’S FOR THE CHIIIIIIIIIIILLLLLLLLLLLLLDREN!!! Same lame-ass riposte that always seems to be thrown at logic.

          Seriously, look around you. If a kid can’t be bothered to look up/duck at a large object emitting a loud whirring noise then maybe, just maybe, they shouldn’t breed more of themselves. Natural selection WORKS.

          1. When ever someone says think about the children it should immediately raise a a red flag they’re full of bull as they’re trying to play on your emotions.

      3. The reaction isn’t knee-jerk, the regulations are (which is doubly sad when you look back on how many YEARS of ass-dragging it has taken the FAA to finally come up with them). At the very least, they’re “knee-jerk” for the same reason your comment is, not all “drones” are 20+ kg.

        One of the most popular sub-sections of the RC plane hobby is “foamies” which are ultra light, and ultra low cost, aircraft made from some form of Styrofoam like material. Some quad/hex/octo/ect.-copters are, also, made from foam. If designed right, they can be made to have no sharp points meaning they can drop on a person (or even hit them head-on at full speed in the popular case of pusher-type aircraft) without harming someone, The FAA already takes these weight and minimum cross-section of impact surface into account in their high altitude weather balloon regulations but have either been too stupid/lazy to take it into account here or have had their hands tied by the way congress has worded their bill.

      4. And this doesn’t keep anybody from wrapping a done around your child’s face. It just means they can’t make money off it, or do it with video goggles. (Yeah, I know, nobody wants to crash a drone into anybody’s face!)

      5. Wont somebody please think of the children! I sure will when I’m boiling yours up. So sick of this argument being used as an excuse. /Don’t care. Hope your kids die. CRY… ME… A… RIVER, breeder.

  4. Gah. What a lousy, shortsighted way to set restrictions.

    So if the farmer in the example mounted cameras on poles to look over his crops, that’s okay. And if the poles are mounted on wheeled robot mounts, so that they can move around the fields, that’s okay too. But as soon as you take away the connection to the ground, it’s suddenly not okay, even if the cameras moved within the same boundaries and at the same height.

    It would make more sense to define “hobby” use based on aircraft specifications such as size/weight, lifting power, altitude of operation, etc. The line-of-sight thing probably seemed reasonable once-upon-a-time, but didn’t count on technology and economics making possible for a hobbyist to buy or build an FPV flyer. This restriction would probably be better served by limiting the maximum distance from the operator.

    And situations like the multicopter Peeping Tom incident that I recently saw in the news are probably best handled by existing laws that cover trespassing and reasonable expectation of privacy. I’m sure this (and other negative press) is going to result in some kind of knee-jerk reaction specifically against RC flyers. So the next jerk will build some sort of wall-climbing robot to peek into windows, and say “It’s not flying! I didn’t break the law!”

    For the most part, laws need to focus on what people actually *do*, not what they might be capable of doing, or what tools they might use to do it.

    1. I like the farmer example, and it successfully points out some flaws with this. If the law is designed to protect other people and property, what if you’re only flying above your own property, in your own <500' of airspace?

      And I agree that some other scenarios are better handled by existing law.

      Though as for line-of-sight vs. FPV, it could be argued that line-of-sight is safer because it provides constant 360° awareness of the environment around the aircraft; whereas FPV does not. Even if the camera can be rotated 360°, you're still only viewing a portion of the environment at any given time.

      [Lazyzero] mentioned that in Germany, a second person could be used as a spotter to keep an unaided eye on the aircraft. That's a good idea and better than nothing, as far as practical compromises go.

      Otherwise I'm with [Fartface]. In a week's time I will be celebrating this nation's independence the traditional way alongside my neighbors – by shooting fireworks, which are illegal in my city. Some rules were made to be broken. And if I ever get the opportunity to experience FPV flight I will take it, the FAA can bite me too.

      1. I like the farmer example even more because of the alternative. The only farmer on a large property I know who now uses a UAV to check for water did so because it was too dangerous doing so in a gyrocopter.

    2. Scenario One: Put yourself in the seat of a crop duster flying low over a farmer’s fields and suddenly an unmanned drone appears in your flight path. With no time to react, you hit the drone and crash into the field, likely killing you. The FAA considers the air space over crops as Commercial Regulated Airspace, as crop dusters are FAA Approved Commercial Aircraft.

      Scenario Two: Farmer flying a drone over his fields for whatever reason, is using the drone for commercial purposes. He is using a tool (the unmanned drone), to enhance his crop performance. This is using an aircraft for commercial purposes, as he eventually gets paid for his crop, and as a result he gets paid for using the drone, thus, he falls under the commercial aircraft FAA rules.

      1. Scenario 1: A farmer usually knows that there will be a crop duster aircraft in the air over his property. Enough time to clear the drone off the sky.

        Scenario 2: And what? Should all commercial things be regulated? Shouldn’t the airspace above property up to a defined altitude belong to the owner/user, who’s then assigned the role of its ATC, effectively being in charge of conflict resolution in Scenario 1?

        1. Afraid not. Air space in the US(as far as I’m aware, all of the US) doesn’t belong to the owner of the land beneath it. In fast, unless you specifically own mineral rights, you don’t by default own anything beneath the ground either. As a property owner, you own what’s at, or directly attached(assuming it doesn’t exceed city county building ordinance) to the ground(excluding electric/water meters, gas/electrical lines, etc.)

          1. Consider this:


            Where a paraglider was arrested for circling over a cattle farm without permission. While I’d hardly consider it definitive legal reference, the article from July 2013 says:

            “Today, the federal government considers the area above 500 feet to be navigable airspace in uncongested areas. While the Supreme Court hasn’t explicitly accepted that as the upper limit of property ownership, it’s a useful guideline in trespass cases. Therefore, unless you own some very tall buildings, your private airspace probably ends somewhere between 80 and 500 feet above the ground.”

            It’s obvious all property MUST have SOME private airspace. And while the FAA apparently claimed in 2007 it has regulatory power over everything right down to ground level, it doesn’t actually seem to have any legal basis for it. I found this link interesting regarding that and other topics:


        2. “Should all commercial things be regulated?” Change that to “Should all things be regulated?” and you have the essence at the core of the Democratic Party in the USA, with the answer being firmly pinned to YES.

      2. Yea, I’ve got to agree with Thomas Shaddack here.

        Scenario 1: The most I would find reasonable would be to specify a requirement that, in the specific case of farms and similar special situations, both the operator of the drone and the operator of the crop duster have to get explicit written permission, from the land owner/operator, to operate on a given day/time. Honestly, I would certainly hope this would already be a thing for crop dusters regardless.

        Scenario 2: So what? Unless the drone in question happens to be approaching the size/mass of a full-sized aircraft, neither you or the FAA have given any kind of legitimate safety-based argument for why commercial use should be treated any differently than hobby use. Maybe, if we ever come close to reaching a point where the sheer number of drones is so high that the likely-hood of collisions is reasonably high, we may need to consider some form of “rationing” of the airspace or automated transponder protocol to help drones avoid each other but considering the massive volume of 3d space vs. the 3d space of roads, this shouldn’t be a serious concern for a long time.

        1. “the 3d space of roads” should read “the 2d space of roads”. While roads can, technically, be termed to be 3d, if your car ever takes advantage of more than the plane of travel directly over the road surface then you’re doing it wrong…

          1. Doing it wrong?! What do you mean, “doing it wrong”?! Are you sayin’ that Starsky and Hutch were “doing it wrong”?? Are you claiming that the Dukes Of Hazzard were the BAD guys?!?!

            Oh my, I have been watching it all wrong. ;)

  5. What sort of hoops would one have to jump through to do this legally? I imagine they are prohibitive for most hobbyists but perhaps certain sponsored youtube channels(flite test, supertramp, &c) might be able to afford it as the cost of doing business.
    If they made the licensing similar to HAM requirements/pricing it might assuage some peoples disgust.

      1. I was also under the distinct impression that such licensing would require all testing to be preformed at one or more of a very small hand-full of “approved” drone testing grounds spread across the country. If that is the case then, on top of the cost of traveling to such a facility if you aren’t lucky enough to already live next to one, I’m sure use of such a specialized test facility will require some kind of business level entry fees and prior proof of insurance long before you ever get to a point where you can even consider the actual drone licensing fees. Then, I’m sure, you get to compete with much larger and more influential business interests for the limited available range time (which will be even more limited when you subtract all the days lost due to bad weather conditions).

      2. The implications of someone successfully registering an amateur UAV as an experimental aircraft are rather significant. If you could get away with it, you could cause a lot of grief for the FAA by simply following their own laws, to the letter.

        I mean, landing a registered UAV at a major airport would be hilarious. Could you imagine the radio exchange when the tower finds out that you landed and that you have taxied clear of the runway while they are still looking out the window trying to find you? Or better yet, the look on another pilot’s face when they are taxiing behind you in their 777. How about when the tower requests that you increase airspeed above 20kts while you are on final and you tell them that you are going as fast as you can… and other planes end up having to wait on you.

        1. that’s goddamned funny! a good way to show the absolute banality of their ‘regulations for safety’ is to follow them precisely.

          i really want to do this now…

    1. The government and any corporation large enough to pay meaningful political donations ^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H the high cost of access to the limited number of officially approved test facilities and licensing.

    2. you mean the government can have nukes/ tanks/ large rockets but the people can’t!

      honestly this anger over regulation od drones is stupid and this is coming from someone that loves them and wants to make them. this is nothing new there are in fact 1000s of things just like this today but that doesn’t feed the emotional outrage it seems.

      1. There is nothing wrong with preventing damage. However, there is using it as an excuse to pass generalizing laws.

        The idea of any government in big part is to produce quality laws. The system is based on that function and that is why laws take so much time. If that time is spent but the law is still crude, ignorant, or uses anything close to drastic or general, non-situation-tailored measures – someone neglected it’s duty.

        IMHO “not for commercial” gives quite a clue on why this was passed at all and why nobody cares of quality.

      2. Umm Yeah… Nice false equivalency there!

        A piece of styrofoam with a prop attached is definitely equivalent to a nuke. OMG, it’s a quadcopter in Cuba! Quick, hide under a desk!

        Or is it the tank that it is equivalent to? Oh wait, those are legal to own.. albeit highly impractical and I’m pretty sure you can’t have the big gun it originally came with.

        Rocket maybe? But we can have small rockets. Actually, amateur rockets can get pretty big! I’m pretty sure there is a limit and that it is somewhat smaller than “personal ICBM” however that is exactly the point. We want the right to fly small(ish) drones not automated 747s!

        You fail!

    1. Here is a different take on the subject:

      1: We are hackers, we create new uses for existing tech, some good, some evil. The ones using it for good aren’t the problem, it’s the ones using it to spy on people at a beach, or haranguing kids in a park with one dressed up like the grim reaper.

      2:This truly doesn’t matter since we ARE hackers and we will make this shit on our own without the government even knowing about it.

      3: It isn’t illegal, just regulated. It isn’t the end of the world. start a business that makes it legit if you have to.

      4: If you have a real problem with that you either a: don’t fully grasp the situation, b: can move to another country, or c: play by the rules, if you can’t do that then your probably in the evil hacker category.

      I would personally love to have a quad copter and it would be totally legal as long as it basically, didn’t have a camera. I would use it to harass my cats and it would probably last about 5 minutes at that, so cheap is the way to go. if you want to be a serious hobbyist, then go pro and get the permit or license or whatever the government want you to have to stay with in the regulation. This will not kill the hobby by any stretch of the imagination.

      1. > if you want to be a serious hobbyist, then go pro and get the permit or license or whatever the government want you to have to stay with in the regulation. This will not kill the hobby by any stretch of the imagination.

        hob·by 1 (hb) n. pl. hob·bies
        An activity or interest pursued outside one’s regular occupation and engaged in primarily for pleasure.

        I think you’re missing the point.

        1. do you have a drivers license? when cars first came out you didn’t need one because there was no regulation about them. do you think people should get a license to drive a car? does it stop them from using cars both responsibly and irresponsibly?

          this isn’t a question of can I use it, it’s about leaving a simple paper trail to catch those who would use them to commit crimes. and lets face it, it is a poor attempt that probably won’t work because we are smarter than they are.

          So what’s it going to take? does someone have to be killed by a drone for this problem to be taken seriously? Do you not believe that this can happen? if you don’t, you are a fool.

          do you take my point?

          1. this is inaccurate. ‘driving’ in this context ,refers to operating a motor vehichle for profit, and is derived from cattle driving(as per blacks law book). you still dont have to have a license to ‘travel’ in a motorized vehichle, but i would pay good money to see someone try and defend this point in court, because they selectively play by their own rules.

          2. if you are operating a vehicle that requires a license to operate, (i.e. drivers license, chauffeurs license, cdl), and you get pulled over by a police officer, you can be detained or arrested if you don’t have it on you or don’t have one at all if you are driving on government maintained roads. since you are striving for “accuracy”

            but thank you for playing “Completely missing the point”

      2. Fuck the permits and their apologists. Life is too short to beg for permission to play with camera-carrying toys. If it means I am an “evil hacker”, then I am. Better be evil than rotting away one’s life doing paperwork (or not having fun) instead of having fun.

      3. ” – To use the drone in any way – auto-pilot or not, for any purpose – commercial or not, unless it interferes with the rights of others.”
        If you have a real life possibility to make that legal (get something like a license), then everything is fine.
        If you have to wait in a months long queue, and/or if necessary paperwork and it’s cost is over the minimal actually necessary, or any other usual way of “you are allowed, but only in theory” then it’s not ok.
        You get a driver’s licence – you can drive anywhere. You hurt somebody – you pay for it or get punished.
        Drones are dangerous and can be misused easily. So are cars, guns, computers, electricity etc.

        1. so you resort to name calling because you can’t defend your position, what class.

          And no, we are not idiots, we can see where this is headed and we are trying to keep the real idiots from making this situation worse.

          And no we are not killing America, I would like to think that I’m on the side that would keep Americans from being killed. This includes those who don’t know how to spell the word “on”

  6. Drones are information weapons in common use–model aircraft–therefore it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to go with 2nd amendment violation and anything in public should be fair game for drone recording…..

    1. I think you mean 1st amendment, which is designed to guarantee our rights to free expression and a free press.
      The 2nd amendment is designed to guarantee our right to bear arms.

      Not that our current government pays any attention to the bill of rights…

      1. I’m pretty sure that mr z meant the second amendment, mostly because of ‘information weapons’. But I’m only a lowly Briton, so I can’t be sure about such constitutional matters.

        1. this is more for others then you really but the 2 amendment can only be applied to hand held fire arms it does not apply to tanks, RPGs, grenades or any other form of war weapon. all of which are illegal to own in the US

  7. This is ridiculous. FPV is one of the great things about RC aircrafts. I also don’t understand why people can’t use RC aircrafts to benefit themselves (such as the case of farmers). I’m not too against the rules on direct commercialized use of drones, since there are liability issues. Let’s give everyone guns, but no hobby drones.

  8. It would’ve been better now (in “hindsight”) had the R/C community objected to the prolific verbiage of the noun “DRONE”, and instead corrected the mass media to use the proper term: “model aircraft”. Had this been done, the media and politicians reacting to the ignorant masses would not have even blinked at it.

    However, as a commercial pilot (CMEL ATP w/4000+ hrs flying a Citation X business aircraft and a small Cessna 172 for fun), I applaud the FAA for their proactive stance (and I’m no fan of the FAA!). Since the last thing I want, (and could literally be), is some large “drone” in my flight path on approach and having a midair with it. I seriously doubt the “drone” would have an ADS-B transponder or TCAS-II package to alert nearby aircraft of it’s presence.

    Then again, perhaps, it would’ve been better off, if they (FAA) promulgated rules to ban their flights within, say 10 miles of a class B airport…hmm, now that I think of it – that would’ve been a better idea – just ban their operation with in 10 miles of *any* airport! As a pilot I’d be satisfied….. now if anyone wants to fly a “drone” near a ball field or parking lot of the Walmart – have at it – doesn’t affect me (or my passengers).

    1. “I seriously doubt the “drone” would have an ADS-B transponder or TCAS-II package to alert nearby aircraft of it’s presence.” This is purely due to cost and current regulations. If the FAA said you needed a ADS-B transponder or TCAS-II package to operate a drone, you’d see drone size versions out within a year and every legal operator would be fitting them. Hell, even the “see and avoid” requirement isn’t much of an obstacle. I’d be expensive, but totally feasible with current tech. (though it’s unlikely to fit on the smallest drones)

      There needs to be a size class system setup for drones and some releasable licensing system to prove operator skill. (including an uncontrolled airspace “less dangerous than an angry goose” we don’t care class.) The bigger size classes should probably have some level of certification as well.

      1. ^^THIS^^

        I think a licensing and class system would be the ideal way to regulate this. It is no good to have people being reckless and ignorant while piloting something that can *KILL* somebody when misused, or cause significant damage to property or persons. Like amateur radio, a licensing system can help insure a minimum level of competency and responsibility for these types of vehicles.

    2. I agree with having an exclusion zone around any airport but, along with that, I think there needs to be explicit regulatory acknowledgement of the difference between the dramatic difference between the many different sizes and shapes of drones. The FAA regs. for high altitude weather balloons already exempt them from most of the rules if they are below a certain weight judged to be light enough to not cause serious damage if it were to land on someone accidentally. They also, if my memory serves me, have some recognition for the smallest possible area of impact to avoid designs with sharp corners that would, otherwise, focus the impact force.

      Put some reasonable form of these two requirements together, and a lot of the RC “foamies” (planes made almost entirely of some form of lightweight styrofoam type material) would still be legal. This, also, happens to be one of the hottest segments of the RC/FPV hobby and, as a bonus, has an extremely low cost of entry due to the cheapness of the foam material and the much smaller/cheaper electronics required to power such a light air-frame.

      1. If I remember right, high-altitude weather balloons are also supposed to be visible on radar, which typically means adding a big omni reflector made of tinfoil. And you need to notify the FAA in advance before launch.

        1. Yes to the almost zero cost piece of tinfoil. No to the requirement to inform the FAA as long as you stay under the weight limit (which I believe is 4 pounds) and, obviously, don’t plan on trying to launch from controlled airspace. That is, unless they’ve changes the regs since last I read them.

  9. The way I read it, they need to divide the class of model aircraft under 55lbs into two categories to allow for the lighter aircraft (say 30lbs?) to allow for FPV with a spotter. In addition to that, the FAA needs to give back to property owners 250 ft AGL and below regardless of commercial status. Commercial status should only apply when operating on property outside of yours. If commercial, written permission should be required.

      1. UGH of course this has to happen in Chelan (grew up there), I’ve even jumped off the same butte. Weird that this pointed to website that list in Sammamish (where i currently live).

        Anyways FAA needs too be more logical (which will never happen) and do proper classes and licensing for unmanned craft. Just blanket ban like this is just bad for everyone.

    1. As I read the 2nd, you may arm a RPV, and operate same, just as you may keep and bear a personal firearm. When you may discharge said arms may be regulated, requiring a “valid” target or firing range.

      Courts may disagree with my reading.

  10. wow, that was quick…I just built my first multiwii quadcopter,really have a lot of fun flying it and thought I had found a new hobby……I like to define this under the caveman problem….if someone can’t understand something they fear it then ban it…thanks FAA…I will ignore them and keep flying my quadcopter on my private property all I want…come and get me,I’m not afraid at all….as far as I’m concerned they can all kiss my hairy white……………. ok, I’ll stop now…..

  11. “if passed there will, unfortunately, exactly two ways to fix this.”

    #3. Folks ignore their petty little rules; this results in the undermining of their perceived authority; they decide to change the rules before they’ve completely lost what little credibility they have left.

    “They’ll also look up if you have voted in the last few elections.”

    Along with who you voted for? All of this is done from their accounts? :)

  12. I find it interesting that Congress ordered the FAA to impose these restrictions, and that it’s coming out now, considering that the Border Patrol is handing out bus tickets and shipping in illegals by the tens of thousands from the Texas border alone and the police are being handed out armored vehicles previously used by the military in the Middle East. There’s only one reason why the government is effectively trying to ban FPV hobby aircraft: They don’t want average Joes to see what they’re doing. To back up my statements, here are a few articles outlining the latest acts of psychosis by this regime.

    Illegals being bussed into the States:

    Police issued armored vehicles for use against citizens:

    There are many more articles from both sides of the pond documenting the madness of the Federal Government, but it would hijack the entire thread if I linked them all. Suffice to say, the Feds want to know what brand of tampons your wife uses, but if any hacker wants to fly an FPV aircraft, he or she suddenly becomes a potential terrorist.

  13. Hey, what if you added an FPV camera on a long stick pointed at the drone itself – then it’ll be within your visual line of sight, therefore possible to call it model aircraft? :D
    That might work…

    1. I was thinking, maybe, a cheap low resolution camera mounted to the front of the FPV headset that has it’s feed composited into the corner of the FPV field of view so that you can claim to be legitimately watching the plane from your physical vantage point while also controlling it by FPV. However, I’d be surprised if they didn’t, somewhere, specify that their definition of visual line of sight excludes such a “pass-though” type system.

      1. Well as such a system could be built with the compositioning done optically, and you would essentially end up with a pair of glasses with screens. People use the glasses pass-through system all the time, like when driving cars, planes and whatever (no I’m not talking about google glass).

  14. Just another federal agency autocratically spreading it’s power out over a wider footprint. Leave no freedom or enjoyed pursuit unregulated or untaxed!

      1. Oh give me a break. By that logic they should ban bicycles because people die riding them every day and commercial traffic is more important than recreation.

        The chances of an aircraft hitting a low flying drone are one in a million.

      2. Bullshit. Here let me correct that for you.

        “A small part of the regulations are there to protect life”.

        The rest of it just has the effect of screwing over hobbyists using hardware incapable of causing actual damage and is written that way because, after already sitting around with their thumbs up their rears for years instead of actually doing their damn jobs, the FAA decided to slap something simple-minded and over-reaching together (or, if Hackaday’s premise is true, the congress did the overreaching and all the FAA did was the part about wasting years with their thumbs up their behinds).

    1. how about secure a bunch of helium (god please don’t use that dreaded hydrogen ) balloons to a lawn chair and secure the lawn chair to the ground with a long rope/cable. Course secure in the opposite order then stated.

      1. Nah, you had the order right, you’ve just got to make sure you have a firm grip on the rope/cable while while tie-ing it down to the ground with your free hand…

    1. Just screw the FAA? That is what your cellmate Bubba will say about you while he is flying you in violation of a few rules too. Who knows though, you might be into that sort of thing?

  15. I think congress has finally figured out just how easy it would be for someone to launch a full scale swarm attack of drones on them while they prance about in DC. I really need to wear my tin hat when I have my brain in mad evil scientist storm mode. Course anybody that was to actually do this would do it regardless of laws.

      1. ah yes but those pulse jets have a limited range. Get a swarm of drones mounted with a solar cells and recharge those batteries during the day and fly at night strike in the late afternoon. And or do like some darpa project and fly along the power lines with a couple of coils to collect power wirelessly as go travel towards your goal.

  16. Sounds to me like the article title got it wrong, and the FAA deserves the blame for this. Congress may have inadvertently allowed them to regulate this, but the FAA is the one that decided to use that power to restrict their use.

  17. Your interpretation seems wrong to me. Congress allows the FAA to regulate these aircraft, but doesn’t mandate what those regulations are. The headiline should read FAA destroys Hobby because Congress lets them.

  18. Here’s the problem as I see it. Back when I was growing up, if you wanted to fly RC, you went down to the local RC field that was far removed from everything and you flew there. When you inevitably had your plane crash because of interference, nobody got hurt because you weren’t flying over anyone. You didn’t, for example, fly a camera-equipped quad-copter over your neighborhood and then post footage of your neighbors back yards up on You Tube because that would have been inconsiderate. Somehow we seem to have lost this notion of consideration. As Lee Hutchinson proved with his footage on Ars today, people can’t be trusted to use this new technology responsibly and with consideration for those around them. I’m hardly alone in objecting to the idea that any idiot with $1300 to spend can buzz my house or my street and then put up the pictures on You Tube. Most of us want to be able to be outside without the need to worry about things falling out of the sky or taking our pictures without permission (at least in places where we have come to expect at least a modicum of privacy). UAVs are getting regulated because the bad actors that are flying them are drawing unwanted attention to the hobby as a whole. You can make all the arguments you want about how UAVs are not really dangerous or whatever, but it doesn’t matter. Many people don’t like them. Instead of trying to fight the regulations, you would be a whole lot better off working with government to establish sensible regulations and working amongst yourselves to promote responsible and considerate flying. If you want to continue to enjoy your hobby, then don’t give people a reason to hate it.

    1. I understand where you are coming from, but that is a very closed minded point of view. This is the same argument as gun control and many other hot topic regulation issues. Some people have been irresponsible with the tools, others have been irresponsible. The fact that some people use their equipment irresponsibly (RC plane, gun or even a baseball bat) doesn’t mean that use of the tool should be banned altogether. Sure, make it harder for numbskulls to get their hands on it, but it is not right to outright ban it from everyone.

      I completely agree though, that some people really take a good thing and ruin it’s reputation for everyone else. You will find though, that the majority of FPV users are more like the guys over at They fly light weight fun craft at a regulated field or in their back yard. Only 5-10% of people fly their aircraft recklessly, but to those unfamiliar with the hobby, it seems like everyone is is reckless and has no regard for safety or privacy. Don’t judge the crowd based on the few guys you read about in the news or wherever

      1. To be clear I’m not against responsible flying. FPV is very cool technology and I’ve got no problem with people using it to control aircraft in places where it can be done safely and non-intrusively. But as I said, it only takes a few bad actors to turn the tide of public opinion against an activity. The proliferation of quad-copters combined with very public incidences of people doing stupid things like flying them over crowded beaches has created something of an image problem for the hobby. At this point the government is involved and you can expect any reaction to be heavy-handed. The best thing the hobbyist community can do is to organize themselves in such a way as to promote responsible flying by educating their membership. If the community can prove it can regulate itself better than the government, then perhaps it will be in a better political position to avoid the more onerous regulations.

  19. So instead of licensing people and setting up something similar to the AMA with regards to community rules and liability, with well-identified aircraft, people will now be flying unanimously while breaking the law, leaving victims of UAV incidents with zero recourse when it comes to seeking damages.

    The FAA will regulate itself into irrelevance.

  20. Typical government. They will come out with these insanely strict rules, freak everyone out, then when they “give in” and don’t adopt them all, people sucker in for a loss of their freedoms and say, “Well at least it’s not as strict as it could have been,” and the government just succeeded in a pulling a fast one on the citizens.

    1. “typical government” ? uh hellloooo… some of you chumps and fools keep voting these corrupt cretins right back into office ! now you reap what you sow !! How about this “term limits” and voter competency tests before you’re allowed to cast any kind of ballot. That way you eliminate all the useful idiots (as Glen Beck described them), that have zero clue about what the heck they’re voting on.

      Watching “Watters World” – man-in-the-street-interviews: “did you know that former President Roosevelt died?”… responses: “oh, that’s so sad, when did that happen?” Need I say more ? well, on a roll, let’s continue – the famous woman “obama gonna pay m’ah beels !!”…… people like that are voting in the same corrupt lying scum. The way to eliminate is to have Voter Competency Tests and term limits !

      And doing something about the media that has turned into the democrat version of Pravda !

    1. Nope!

      You can’t legally even own an automatic rifle, let alone take one to a fast food store.

      In some states you are allowed to carry lesser weapons openly so that everyone knows you have it. (not a very practical way to get around, people get kind of freaked out).

      Also, in some states you are allowed to get a permit to carry a concealed weapon (still not automatic). This is only to be used for target practice, defense or with the proper hunting license it may be used to obtain meat.


      Even where there is open carry and/or concealed carry property owners may forbid it on their land. Violation of this is a federal offense. Most fast food places (as well as other businesses) have signs on them letting you know that you will be hauled away if you bring it inside.

      The Hollywood Wild West fantasy that some people like to apply to the current-day United States is only that… a fantasy.

  21. Welcome to the party. That way you’re feeling right now? That’s how gun enthusiasts feel. All. The. Time.

    And before someone responds with “BUT DRONES DON’T KILL PEOPLE!” you might want to tell the President that.

  22. Anyone who says: “but why? foamies are so light”, talk with GA pilots. They will tell that what they fear most are collisions. Try throwing a few rocks (50-200 g, brushless motors and a lipo battery) at the windshield of a car traveling at 200 km/h (cruising speed of Cesna 172) on a (German?) highway and see what happens. You will probably be lucky enough not to kill[1] the driver. Doing the same with a plane you won’t be. No look here [2], you can even switch to full-screen, and tell me if the guy who was flying this had any chance of spotting a plane to avoid it? Yes, the view is gorgeous. Is it, however, worth risking lives? Not in my humble opinion.

    And please don’t say: “*I* don’t do such stupid things”. The rules are not only to prevent us from doing things but also to make us sure (convinced enough) that others won’t do them too.



    1. How high are people flying their hobbyist toys? Are they really a threat to airplanes? Not allowing flying them near airports I understand but these rules are closer to a complete ban.

  23. Wouldn’t the simplest method be to add a few features to model aircraft, such as an “Eject battery in the event of imminent collision with its own ‘chute to reduce mass” and something that forces landing in the event of a nearby aircraft transponder being detected?
    The main concern is inhalation of a model by an aircraft engine, not so much of a problem with larger aircraft but single engine jets are a big concern.

  24. In 1:1 scale aviation the definition of commercial verses noncommercial can be tricky. For instance flying a companies aircraft in commercial operations, like flying one of the executives to a company related meeting, for no monetary compensation, still requires a commercial pilot certificate because the FAA considers the experience you gain by flying the plane a type of compensation. This policy position by the FAA has the potential of killing any type of RC related sponsorship because the FAA could view the receiving of equipment as compensation, thus falls outside the definition of hobby. Many manufactures have RC pilots and sometimes teams of RC pilots to demonstrate their products. This also could be viewed as outside the definition of hobby activity. I read someone comment that clicking the monetize button when posting a YouTube video may also be outside the FAAs definition of hobby use. When this regulation is in place the legal interpretation will begin to appear. That’s when we will know the full extent of the impact to our hobby. Fortunately, the FAA doesn’t have the resources to send inspectors into field to spy on RC pilots, but we haven’t heard the last of this issue.

  25. The FAA is very outdated and corrupt and needs a good house cleaning and updating.

    But the real problem is congress is so corrupt that it’s impossible to fix anything.
    The greedy and corrupt weasels must go.

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