Will Drones and Planes be Treated as Equals by FAA?

Soon, perhaps even by the time you read this, the rules for flying remote-controlled aircraft in the United States will be very different. The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) is pushing hard to repeal Section 336, which states that small remote-controlled aircraft as used for hobby and educational purposes aren’t under FAA jurisdiction. Despite assurances that the FAA will work towards implementing waivers for hobbyists, critics worry that in the worst case the repeal of Section 336 might mean that remote control pilots and their craft may be held to the same standards as their human-carrying counterparts.

Section 336 has already been used to shoot down the FAA’s ill-conceived attempt to get RC pilots to register themselves and their craft, so it’s little surprise they’re eager to get rid of it. But they aren’t alone. The Commercial Drone Alliance, a non-profit association dedicated to supporting enterprise use of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), expressed their support for repealing Section 336 in a June press release:

Basic ‘rules of the road’ are needed to manage all this new air traffic. That is why the Commercial Drone Alliance is today calling on Congress to repeal Section 336 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, and include new language in the 2018 FAA Reauthorization Act to enable the FAA to regulate UAS and the National Airspace in a common sense way.

With both the industry and the FAA both pushing lawmakers to revamp the rules governing small remote-controlled aircraft, things aren’t looking good for the hobbyists who operate them. It seems likely those among us with a penchant for airborne hacking will be forced to fall in line. But what happens then?

Play Time is Over

The 2018 FAA Reauthorization Act does not simply repeal Section 336, it also details the new rules the agency would impose on unmanned aircraft and their operators. Under these proposed rules, all unmanned aircraft would be limited to an altitude of 400 feet unless they have specific authorization to exceed that ceiling. They must also be operated within line of sight at all times, effectively ending long-range First Person View (FPV) flying. There’s also language in the Reauthorization Act about studying the effects of flying unmanned aircraft at night, or over groups of people.

It also states that drones, just like traditional aircraft, must be registered and marked. It even authorizes the FAA to investigate methods of remote identification for drones and their operators, meaning it’s not unreasonable to conclude that RC aircraft may be required to carry transponders at some point in the future. To many in the hobby this seems like an unreasonable burden, especially in the absence of clear limits on what type of small aircraft would be excluded (if any).

In a video posted to their YouTube channel, Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) Interim Executive Director Chad Budreau wonders if even rubber band powered balsa planes will someday need their own registration and identification devices:

To be fair, not everything in the 2018 FAA Reauthorization Act is negative. It also talks about the need for better manufacturer safety standards and certifications for unmanned aircraft sold in the United States, including a mechanism by which the FAA could revoke a safety certification should standards not be met. Though critics could argue this language is simply a mechanism by which the FAA will force compliance with future remote identification standards.

You Must be this Tall to Fly

While there’s no shortage of new rules and regulations for the drones themselves, the humans operating them will also be under greater scrutiny. Under the 2018 FAA Reauthorization Act, anyone flying a remote-controlled aircraft will not only have to pass an “aeronautical knowledge and safety test”, but show proof of their passing to any law enforcement if questioned. It isn’t clear what the consequences of not having your “Drone License” on you if police ask for it will be, but fines or even confiscation of your equipment doesn’t seem unlikely.

Perhaps most troubling of all is that with the repeal of Section 336, young people might actually be excluded from flying remote-controlled aircraft. While many RC planes and quadcopters are marketed as children’s toys, in the absence of Section 336, it’s not clear that a child could legally operate one. The FAA requires a person to be 16 years of age to obtain a pilot’s license, and if unmanned aircraft are truly expected to obey the same “rules of the road”, it’s not unreasonable to assume that age requirement will remain in effect.

“The bill will have a chilling effect on youth involvement in the hobby and stifle the benefits of employing model aviation in STEM education,” says Budreau, “ultimately hindering the efforts to attract youth into the aviation industry.”

End of an Era

Holding small unmanned aircraft to a higher standard than they are currently is not inherently a bad thing, as even the most fanatical RC fliers certainly don’t want to endanger human life while pursuing their hobby. So few would be against reasonable changes to how the FAA handles unmanned aircraft if it meant they could more safely operate in the same airspace. It’s hard to argue that drone pilots shouldn’t have some basic knowledge on how to safely navigate the increasingly congested skies. But ultimately the reaction of the RC community will depend on how these new changes are implemented and what the consequences for not being in compliance are.

At the time of this writing the 2018 FAA Reauthorization Bill has passed both the House and Senate, and now needs only the President’s signature to become official. For better or for worse, anyone looking to explore the skies in the US is going to have to do so under much closer scrutiny than ever before. How well, or how poorly, the community responds to this increased oversight is likely going to determine the trajectory of the hobby for decades.

Update: On October 5th, 2018 President Trump signed the 2018 FAA Reauthorization Act. Section 336, the “Special Rule for Model Aircraft”, is officially no more.

84 thoughts on “Will Drones and Planes be Treated as Equals by FAA?

        1. Well big brother wasn’t watching in “Brave New World”, that was in “1984” by George Orwell. The people in “Brave New World” were perfectly happy with their bizarre freedoms and bizarre lack of freedoms as perceived by the outsider.

  1. The catch here is that they’re asking for blanket powers without having a clear concrete proposal in hand. That’s always going to make folks nervous. This is doubly so when there are commercial interests lobbying for the change and hobbyists and individuals are not represented in a cohesive way. How hard would it be to imagine that the commercial UAV alliance would just as soon have no hobby craft in the air to compete with.

    1. Accurate. I’ve seen it stated by others that the current “legislative trend is to govern by framework rather than statute”. This seems to me more of the same, removing bullet point specifications from the law and placing their craftsmanship in the laps of bureaucrats. Sort of cowardly when you look at it that way.

  2. “…increasingly congested skies…”

    What congested skies?!?!

    I realize that to people who live in small apartments in big cities it may feel as though the whole world is a crowded place where we all must be very careful not to bump in to one another. There are still plenty of people with access to fields, wooded areas, open water and more where it is perfectly safe to do things that might be problematic where there are more people around.

    There should be no law preventing a person from flying FPV over private land. (unless they have rented that land to someone)

    I think the FAA is being way too heavy handed and going far beyond their mandate to provide safety and should be called out for it. I think that too many articles like this are being way too charitable towards them. I realize that not having rules would be bad however there is a balance to be had between anarchy and authoritarianism and the current FAA is not it.

    1. lol, for real! We don’t even have congested land, let-a-lone when you add the 3rd dimension to the mix! RC is already illegal in most areas where it would have a high probability of causing harm; these new rules are idiotic. And it won’t stop here. ‘They’ wont be happy till your craft is required to have an expensive transponder on it (if you want to jump through all the pilot and flight approvals to even fly), or most hobbyists just decide to fly sims instead. FAA is given waaaaay too much benefit off the doubt on this one. Just go look at the committee hearing from a couple weeks ago. All corporate shills/lobbyists and not a single person there representing the hobbyists.

    2. You don’t think the literally millions of “toy” drones being sold every year is putting a burden on the system that it was completely unprepared for? We can say what we want about how the FAA is handling the problem, but you’d be a fool to deny there is one.

      1. The millions of broken drones in the back of closets and in boxes in basements? Those drones? There are going to be a few thousand hobby drones in the air on any given day, tops. Mostly reaching that number on the weekends.

        What ‘problems’ there have been have been predominantly false reports. With nearly 200,000,000 cameras in the US attached to smart phones there should be more pictures of misbehaving drones than ever, but like UFOs, they must be camera resistant. In the mean time there are, about once a month, a mid-air between a plane operated by a qualified and motivated (because his life depends on it) with a) another aircraft, b) a hillside, c) power line, d) some other random large and clearly visible object.

      2. “You don’t think the literally millions of “toy” drones being sold every year is putting a burden on the system that it was completely unprepared for?”

        NO.

        Do Consumer Drones Endanger the National Airspace?
        Evidence from Wildlife Strike Data

        https://www.mercatus.org/system/files/Dourado-Wildlife-Strikes-MOP-v2.pdf

        Excerpt:

        ESTIMATING THE PROBABILITY OF A COLLISION

        We estimate that 6.12×10−6 collisions will cause damage to an aircraft for every 100,000 hours of 2kg UAS flight time. Or to put it another way,
        one damaging incident will occur no more than every 1.87 million years of 2kg UAS flight time. We further estimate that 6.12×10−8 collisions that cause an injury or fatality to passengers on board an aircraft will occur every 100,000 hours of 2kg UAS flight time, or once every 187 million years of operation. This appears to be an acceptable risk to the airspace.

        1. More, from a 737 pilot:

          Airliners vs. Drones: Calm Down

          https://jethead.wordpress.com/2015/08/08/airliners-vs-drones-calm-down/

          [snip]

          What’s new is the opportunity for media and aviation “pundits” to claim more screaming headlines by overstating the drone hazard. First, consider the typical, average weight of the plentiful waterfowl populating the bird sanctuaries neighboring JFK, LGA, ORD, DFW, SEA, PDX, LAX, SAN, DCA, SFO, BOS and most Florida airports to name but a few. The weight varies from the 10-13 pound goose to the heavier seabirds like pelican which can weigh up to 30 pounds.

          [snip]

          So the choice is yours. You can embrace the misguided drone hysteria served up by the news and “experts,” or apply the same logic you do to every daily hazard–including the drive to the airport (over 32,000 traffic deaths in 2014)–which is: drive carefully, and don’t sweat the small stuff.

          Anything else is much ado about nothing.

          1. Indeed. I wasn’t aware avians came with Lithium batteries, or parts harder than bones. Should be interesting to see how this apples-oranges thing works out.

          2. What about private planes hitting drones? Closing speeds in excess of 200 MPH are not unrealistic and not trivial. Do you want to be held responsible for a significant dent in an aircraft wing’s leading edge?

            Note that collisions with birds, while all aircraft are designed for it, are still not trivial events. It has happened to me while flying and while it did no lasting damage, it could have been much worse.

            I think it is reasonable for rules that

            1. Limit casual flying to Class G (Uncontrolled) airspace only. Entry in to controlled airspace will be allowed only with prior coordination and permission.

            2. Set minimum altitudes for flying over private land without prior permission.

            3. Set maximum speeds and weight for casual hobbyist classes for the drone. Anything above that speed or weight should require prior permission and notification of Air Traffic Control at the very least. –Note that this is no different than regulations for flying large kites, free balloons, ultralight aircraft, or model rockets.

            4. When operating a high weight/speed drone, or operating in controlled airspace, Radar transponders, flight plans, and contact with ATC may be required, just as it would be for any private aircraft.

            5. Yes, the NOTAM system is a terrifying mess. The FAA (or other aviation authorities) should have updated it decades ago. However, when operating high weight/high speed drones, review of NOTAMs should be expected.

            6. When operating in Instrument Meteorological Conditions or flying with a cloud deck below, Coordination with ATC should be required.

            Regardless of your intentions, and most are reasonable, you are flying in airspace that is already managed and shared with other legitimate users. It’s a big sky, and it’s unlikely that anyone will be hurt by your activities. But every now and then someone will do something stupid, like an idiot who flew a kite from a park under the final approach path to a general aviation runway. Don’t be that stupid person.

  3. Yeah, because this is what needs regulation in the USA. Not wall street criminals tanking our economy every ten years in their sociopathic quest to parasitize wealth. Not insane health insurance practices or private prisons or pollution. It’s the kids with toy helicopters that are the problem. What is the incident that made this regulation necessary? Nobody has been hurt.

    1. Proactive? Or reactive? Old as the legal system. Either one says “don’t do that”, and deals with the consequences. Or something happens, then one says “we should have done something about that”. No one is happy because they want a world free of rules, and consequences.

  4. ” They must also be operated within line of sight at all times, effectively ending long-range First Person View (FPV) flying. ”

    Have lots of land to overfly. Would affect even though the nearest airport is several miles thataway.

    “While there’s no shortage of new rules and regulations for the drones themselves, the humans operating them will also be under greater scrutiny.”

    And why is that? Think hard before answering. Think “this is why we can’t have nice things”.

    “With both the industry and the FAA both pushing lawmakers to revamp the rules governing small remote-controlled aircraft, things aren’t looking good for the hobbyists who operate them.”

    One a power play, the other about making money. Big surprise.

    1. The only thing that comes to mind is that someone has credible intelligence that someone else plans to turn a FPV drone into a guided missile. Otherwise the distances vertically make this a ridiculous act of overreach. But, FPV drones loaded with a modest payload of kaboom… well, now you have a target market for regulations. Perhaps we’ll be able to confirm their fears by the specific shape the regulations take.

      1. This could have been done for at least the last decade, if not 2. There are opensource projects dedicated to autonomous flight and tuning a plane to fly itself is trivial. Landing is tougher, but if you are kabooming, landing doesn’t really matter. Punishing law abiding hobbyists will not stop any bad actor now or in the future.

  5. Let’s pass more laws, that’s the ticket! It’s the solution to everything!
    In all seriousness, good luck with enforcing it. I doubt many will obtain a “Drone License.” Even if local LEO’s get authority to enforce this nonsense, I’d image they have far better things to do than chasing after model aircraft.

    1. Yeah, every instance I know of with sufficient evidence for me to say “yep, that was actually an RC craft, not just a bag or a bird” has been in airspace that is either restricted or off limits. Making it super double illegal is not going to help those situations. And the FUD injected over other situations that these new regulations would go after are just stupid. This isn’t about safety, this is about airspace for Amazon and money for DJI’s transponders.

  6. “What is the incident that made this regulation necessary?” I see it as a knee jerk reaction to the jerks who fly quads where they shouldn’t. Same with flying FPV and flying beyond line of sight. The ‘skill’ necessary to fly a fixed wing aircraft now isn’t necessary. When quads can fly themselves, anyone can buy and ‘fly’. Sad situation for the hobbyist. You’ve seen the ‘news’ stories (flying at stadiums, over fires, around the statue of liberty, at very high altitudes, etc). Government sees this as ‘threat’ (safety is excuse) and over reacts. For the rest of us that go to a club flying field (or large empty fields) and abide by the AMA guidelines and have been flying safely flying model airplanes (note … not drones) since the 30s… It just doesn’t seem right for more government regulation on our hobby. We are ‘lumped’ into the same class as drones which is absolutely wrong.

    1. ” We are ‘lumped’ into the same class as drones which is absolutely wrong.”

      Much like pirates vs those who don’t. DRM punishes both. Life is so unfair. If only the bad people would stick out more. ;-)

    2. Thanks for the comment, but you are missing the point. Unmanned aerial vehicles are all the same in the eyes of the law. And the “these young whippersnappers with their drones!” is only adding fuel to the REGULATE EVERYTHING fire. Balsa guys, quad guys, 1/4 scale jet guys, heli guys: we are all on the same team. We already have a slim chance of winning, and if you divide us, it is only going to be worse. Would it be so hard to just help educate the people breaking the existing laws rather than just yelling at them to get off your lawn?

        1. Can’t even get a lot of them to admit it’s a model aircraft. “Oh no, this is all new and different, not that stodgy old stick and string stuff, of course the rules shouldn’t apply to me….”

    1. So?

      There always have been special rules near airports where planes take off and land.This should not change!

      Elsewhere, how low SHOULD a plane be flying? If we don’t have rules already then maybe that’s where stricter regulations ARE needed. I can tell you exactly where a pilot that takes his plane a mere 400 feet over my back yard is welcome to fly to next. I’ll give you a hint, he will not be needing a warm coat.

      Meanwhile if I want to buzz the treetops of my own back 40 with a large quad copter and an FPV helmet then that should be none of the FAA’s (or anyone else’s) business.

      1. Amen. If a plane hit a RC craft, would it be an issue? Maybe. How often does this happen? Well, I only know of 2 reports with enough info that I would call ‘legit’, and they were both in areas where operating the RC craft was ALREADY illegal. Is there any reason to think that these strikes are going to be on the rise? No.

        1. I commute in a single-engine Cessna (about 25 round trips per year). Have had to evade UAV/drone/RC/whatever three times in last two years. Once on the base leg and once during the turn to final and one on final. Different facility each time, so we can draw an anecdotal conclusion that it is routine problem over California.

          This, obviously, is why we cannot have nice things.

          1. Interesting. How often would you say you have to “evade” birds per year? As a non-pilot it’d seem to me they’d be a far greater and more ubiquitous problem than radio controlled craft. Yet pet ownership isn’t regulated and we even allow flocks of literally millions of wild birds.

          2. Sorry, I don’t believe you; or you have a very low standard for the use of ‘evade’. You have a drone encounter instant rate of once per 33 trips, which is the highest I’ve ever seen claimed. You need to install a dash cam or keep a DSLR with zoom lens handy if you are really seeing them that often.

            Did you report these evasive maneuvers to the NTSB and FAA? Did you at least radio them in to tower?

        2. “Is there any reason to think that these strikes are going to be on the rise? No”

          Um, the ongoing sales, the growing userbase, and the constant birth of new morons are all reason to think these strikes are going to continue rising.

          Obviously, they’ve already been on the rise, since they started at zero.

    2. The video is BS. Worse things happen when light manned aircraft hit trees, power lines, other aircraft, birds, heavy weather, hillsides, water. There is no reason at all to make aircraft survive collisions when most will be fatal. These people are just trying to get ‘investigation’ money.

  7. Whenever you hear the words ‘common sense’ applied to something that the government wants to legislate, you know it’ll end badly for the people. Can anyone think of other areas that the buzzwords ‘common sense’ are used?

  8. Screw the FAA and their unelected pay-for-play systems. I will not register; I will not obey. After watching the committee meeting, it was clear that DJI wants transponders to be mandatory (whaddya know, they make them!) and the FAA wants to be able to dedicate our airspace to Amazon for deliveries. Where was the AMA? Oh, they weren’t invited. Sorry fellas, politics is not a game you can play from the sidelines. There was a call to arms, and you slept through it. All the Fudds at the AMA Only fields should be ashamed of themselves. Guys like me and my kid that show up with foamies and quads to have a fun time were shunned. They were OK with the FAA going after us, because DON’T WORRY, THE AMA WILL FIGHT FOR US BALSA FLIERS! Well guess what, they didn’t. The AMA has, at best, been worthless through this whole process, if not complacent with the bureaucratic definition and enforcement of BAD laws. I called, I wrote, I gave online feedback, but it felt like this was already a done deal.

    There is no real danger posed by hobbyists to manned flight. This is not about safety. This is about clearing the air for commercial unmanned aerial vehicles from the likes of Amazon and filling the wallets of companies like DJI who are smart about lobbying congress. Sad.

    1. We have our own set of rules regarding proximity to airports, size/weight of rocket, amount of propellant, maximum altitudes, FAA clearance necessary, etc. As a hobby, rocketry has been battling with the FAA for quite some time.

      But, yes, most Class 1 (small, generally unregulated) rockets do go above 400′ AGL, so it raises an interesting question.

  9. This has nothing to do with safety. It has everything to do with money, power and fear from a great many manned aircraft pilot jobs. Commercial interests want that space for profit. Government wants to control that space because it’s government.
    There is no tangible evidence of harm due to remote control hobbies. If there were, it would be insignificant compared to commercial and private manned aircraft. There are vastly more hobby rc pilots and aircraft than commercial and private pilots/aircraft. Yet we hear incidents and accidents in the non rc domain weekly if not daily.

    The government needs to stay outside of this extremely low risk space and hobby. You believe government will act in the interests of hobbyist/citizens? Government ruins nearly everything it touches. Government only take away rights and sell you back regulations, privileges and licenses.

    Leave this hobby alone.
    What organization is actually fighting for RC hobbyists? Don’t say the AMA.

    1. You are exactly correct. Sadly no one is fighting for us, and our calls/letters are insignificant to the depth of the lobbyists’ pockets. I think the only thing left at this point is to practice civil disobedience and take the fight up through the court system :(

    2. ” It has everything to do with money, power and fear from a great many manned aircraft pilot jobs. “

      Or maybe they don’t want to die.

      Grow up and get a sense of proportion about your stupid toys.

      1. That’s hilarious, considering the death rate that ‘qualified’ pilots have produced in the aviation industry. Ever see a drone douse a house in kerosene and slowly burn a mother and two children to death as they huddled together, trapped by the flames? And that was a pilot who had crashed a different plane at the same airport a year earlier. At least this time he managed to kill himself, so it’s self regulating. Or the police helicopter that landed on another, idling on the ground, police helicopter, turning both into little bits. Or the sightseeing copter that flipped in the Hudson and pulled the passengers into the water and trapped them while they helplessly drowned. Get back when hobby drones get anywhere close to that.

      2. “Or maybe they don’t want to die.”

        LOL!!! The fear hype machine is real and running hard!!! Right now there are about 1300 aviation accidents a year with 400 fatalities. Last year, guess how many drones were involved? 200? 20? nope, 0 fatalities and 1 accident.

  10. I think most people are over-reacting, nothing is cut in stone, and can never be changed. A hobby is one thing, but there are some very real commercial applications, a new industry. If people can make money off it, the government, and anyone else wants a piece of the action. The proposed rules, seem to be industry- killing, rather than encouraging growth. Maybe one or two giants trying to limit competition. Seems like a very large foot, poised to squash a lot of little guys, hobbyists included, to secure their stake in this new potential industry. Fortunately, rules and laws can be changed anytime. We haven’t seen the full potential of UAVs, mostly just proof of concept. Amazon can deliver packages, but then again, smugglers and drug dealers have proven it too. Seem that drones are popular with the prison populations as well. Terrorists have also played with a few ideas too. Those that do illegal things, bad things, aren’t going to read the rules anyway, why write them? Most of all this seems to be more about pointing out that we need to do something, just don’t know the specifics yet. Many people are a little scare of things they can’t control. Manned aircraft are relatively easy, their expensive, and few are willing to build their own, and hope it works, since a failure can be painful and deadly to the pilot. A UAV can be bought, but there are still many who build their own. Most people who have flown RC planes for a while, tend to build their own, since after crashing them, repairing them, enough, it’s not such a big jump, cheaper too.

    I don’t know how they plan on catching the people no following the rules they put into practice. Mostly, they just get lucky, a video posted on social media, someone who knows the offender talks, the drone crashes, and the pilot gets nabbed, when he attempts to retrieve the parts and pieces. Law enforcement can maybe get the UAV, but a lot harder to catch the pilot. Tough to follow a drone on the ground, since you have to follow the roads, lot of things to obstruct your view, and they are small. I couldn’t see my Q500 when I took it 400 ft. straight up. It’s tough to see at 100 feet up, maybe 500-600 feet out. Only get about 20 minutes flight time on a battery, doesn’t leave much time for a response, if I did something illegal with it. Think law enforcement has much more serious offenses to focus on. Rules don’t mean much, if they aren’t enforced, or little or no consequences.

    1. The difficulty you describe on catching people is assuming that we (hobbyists) are OK with going ‘underground’. I don’t want to have to hide when I fly. I love taking my small quads to quiet parks to enjoy the outdoors with friends. I love taking my kid to my in-laws place and flying around with the neighbors watching (I think they like when I crash…) This hobby has started countless kids down the STEM path, and turning it into something that has a cloud of perceived guilt hovering over it will just make people stop participating.

      “Rules don’t mean much, if they aren’t enforced, or little or no consequences.” This attitude is very dangerous. Look up Boston civil-liberties lawyer Harvey Silverglate’s book “Three Felonies a Day.” Sure, if I want to hide my hobby and only fly on my property, never tell anyone about it, never share the fun, I’d probably never get caught. But someday I might get pulled over with my transmitter in the car, and OH, whaddya know, go ahead and tack on a “Using an unregistered UAV” to my speeding charge. Or I’m out of town and someone breaks into my house and police show up to investigate after my alarm system activates. OH! what do we have here? RC Grade ESCs!!! Better put out a warrant! These ships are much easier to turn back before they get too far out to sea, and betting on “rules and laws can be changed anytime” has never worked out, or at least worked out very quickly.

    2. The point your missing here is that now the FAA has the authorization to tell manufacturers they can’t sell drones and transmitters unless they include remote identification functions. So now law enforcement can find that pilot because he’s holding an active beacon in his hand that’s squawking out his “drone license” number or whatever they come up with.

      Being able to remotely disable drones is also obviously on the table. Some manufacturers already have voluntary geo-fencing functions.

      Think people will just build their own? Sure, until even the parts themselves are controlled, and perhaps illegal to obtain without a license. When you get caught using it, the punishment/fines will probably even be higher.

      Just like trying to build a “ghost gun” because you can’t qualify for a legal firearm. Sure you can do it, but it’s harder and more expensive, and God help you if you get caught.

      1. Think it would be real slow day for law enforcement, if they went after somebody flying, just because. Nobody complains, and you aren’t doing bad things, you most likely aren’t going to get much of a hassle. Parts controlled? the first quad builds, were from scrounged up parts. Maybe they can control manufactured drones, or off-the-shelf parts, but no way to stop people from re-purposing parts, cheaper too. Firmware and transponders could be fixed, if you are bent on breaking the law. Most people will follow the rules, won’t be a problem. There is money in people flying, don’t think the new rules will completely shut out the hobby aspect. Just because the FAA is authorized to do something, doesn’t mean they will. I’m not advocating breaking any laws, or ignoring what ever rules they decide on, just trying to point out that those who have been spoiling the hobby, will probably continue, and it would be that difficult. Pretty sure those proposing the rules, are aware of all this, and will keep it reasonable.

        Not sure about ‘ghost guns’ and how it relates, since a drone would make a pretty poor weapon, unless modified (obvious) to do so. Outside of military drones, haven’t read anything about a hobby drone causing death or serious injury.

        1. “Think it would be real slow day for law enforcement, if they went after somebody flying, just because. Nobody complains” There is your incorrect step in logic. I’ve talked with Law Enforcement twice while flying. Once in a park flying small foam airplanes after someone called. The park was empty, I double checked the city’s rules, but still the police told me they are obligated to respond to every call. We had a nice chat about the hobby and they left. The other time my friends and I called and got the OK from a farm equipment place to fly around their stuff. Grain elevator, combines, etc. Someone called and thought we were trespassing. Again, talked with the cops, told them we called the owner, they were cool, said they had no choice to respond. Never underestimate the level off busybodyness of the general public.

  11. In addition to my previous comment, forgot to mention that the neighbor’s kid crashed a quad into my house (cracked a large window) a while back. Called the police because I did not know, at the time, whom was responsible. The kid was eventually arrested (actually just booked, never put in jail), and charged with various bogus and trumped up stuff (most California count sheriff’s depts have too many idiots).

    The kid weed-wacked and raked several acres on my property for several years and helped me paint my workshop. He will graduate next year with an computer engineering degree – he got rather focused. Some good things do come from irresponsible quad flying.

  12. I sure do hope that future FAA regulations will finally address the elephant in the room: bird ownership. Birds ownership offers equal, if not greater, dangers than RC aircraft yet anyone can just waltz in to a pet shop without ID and buy one. Addtionally bird flight paths are not restricted in any way. Someone could literally deploy their bird at an airport.

    Surely we need 30 pages of new regulatory procedure, ownership knowledge testing, and constant check-ins for this dangerous and potentially disasterous hobby.

    1. You forgot bats! Bats even make birds looks like small fry. There are currently no rules on where the living organic type can live, where they can go; they can do whatever! Some can possibly be vampires in disguise and thus possibly posses aircraft that they bite into! We need to give the FAA authority to hand out regulations to bats!

      The more inanimate appearing type can be purchased anywhere and although the more inanimate type is not capable of going airborne on their own, they can go airborne with their hidden ability can control organisms. They can use such organisms to themselves flying into the air! Anything that goes a micrometer above the group should be the FAA’s jurisdiction.

      Let’s not forget about rain, we need to pass legislation that gives the FAA the authority to regulate rain!

    2. At least one and possibly many other aircraft have been brought down by mud dauber wasps. They fill the pitot tube with a few insects, a larva, and then plug with mud. Really spectacular the damage a sub-gram weight bug can do to a commercial passenger plane.

  13. We already live with (more or less) these rules in NZ. Its really not that big of a deal when you think about how it’s actually policed and the economics of doing so. Sure, fly over a military base, other people’s private property or near an airport and you might wind some people up. Generally though, the authorities have better things to do with their time. Flying over 400ft agl in the middle of nowhere isn’t going to raise an eyebrow. Same with long range fpv. Doing it over a suburb or in busy vfr airspace will – but responsible pilots shouldn’t be doing that anyway. Over hear it was billed as a saftey and privacy thing and it seems pretty even handed. If you want to work around the rules you need a license. The course is decent and accesible and it keeps humans in the air safe (I’m one of those too) so I’m all for it. Transponders would suck but that’ll really only happen if the ‘problem’ isn’t mitigated by the new rules.

  14. This doesn’t just end long range FPV flying it ends *all* FPV flying except indoor. The rules are very clear, you must have visual line of sight to your aircraft at all times, occasional glances at your control screen are acceptable. You can’t be wearing FPV goggles if you are the pilot and you can’t use any aids other than corrective glasses.

  15. Remote-controlled aircraft have been legal for decades. What’s the data on how many have caused problems?

    Something’s telling me it’s close to zero and when extrapolated for the higher number today or vastly over-estimated numbers tomorrow…. it will still be close to zero.

  16. The issues for me and most of my non-drone flying friends are 1: Having to listen to a drone in a place valued for its natural sounds and, 2: Some thing with a camera looking at me and my partner while we are in our back yard sunning. If someone started peering over the fence I would call the police. Why should some geek with a flying camera get a pass?

    1. 1: you can work with the local authority to disallow RC craft usage in these areas. Look at what the National Park Service did. 2: Depending on the state you are in, you may already have a legal ‘easement’ on the airspace over your property, up to 400′. Thus making it ALREADY illegal for someone to fly over it without your permission.

      If these are serious concerns for you, you should do some research and contact the authorities.

  17. As with so many things, it’s not the responsible users that are the problem, but a small group of self-serving jerks causing both actual problems and perception issues. It’s Balloon Fiesta time right now here in Albuquerque, meaning each day there are approximately 500 or so hot-air balloons in the sky during the early part of the day. Drones are strictly prohibited from flying in or near the Balloon Fiesta Park.

    Despite a variety of outreach efforts including NOTAMs, press releases and other notifications announcing the flight restrictions, an FAA spokesperson and Balloon Fiesta representative both confirmed this morning that there have been 400 airspace incursions by drones into the Balloon Park. Many of these are believed to be of the FPV variety.

    Again, the problem isn’t legitimate, conscientious users, but a bunch of indifferent, callous buffoons who aren’t going to be happy until they cause a crash of some sort that involves fatalities. As a licensed pilot of single-engine airplanes, I believe drones and regular airplanes can co-exist. But as along as you have drone pilots with the attitude of “I’ll fly wherever I feel like it; rules be damned”, you’ll continue to get over-regulation and knee-jerk reactions from the FAA, along with panicky editorials condemning drones and drone pilots.

  18. We already have a model for how this should be handled. Off road vehicles…
    Clearly defining airspace (roads) and controlling it for manned and commercial flights and leaving the rest of the space (off road) free of licensing requirements. You can have rules in place that limit the size and horse power of the aircraft in the (off road) space and require the operator to be a specific age like Ultra-Light aircraft already have.
    You can do all of this without requiring licensing and restrictions on FPV. I actually think its a good thing for UAV pilots to become familiar with Sectionals and Manned flight requirements since it may stoke an interest in General Aviation so maybe it should be part of the Drone community efforts to educate their operators by forming an association and working out an agreement with the FAA to issue certifications to operators.
    I am very much against licensing and regulation in general but I think having that process managed and controlled by non-government bodies is the best way to administrate something like this. Much like Ham radio has done.

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