FAA Proposes Refined Drone Regulations

The wheels of government move slowly, far slower than the pace at which modern technology is evolving. So it’s not uncommon for laws and regulations to significantly lag behind the technology they’re aimed at reigning in. This can lead to something of a “Wild West” situation, which could either be seen as a good or bad thing depending on what side of the fence you’re on.

In the United States, it’s fair to say that we’ve officially moved past the “Wild West” stage when it comes to drone regulations. Which is not to say that remotely controlled (RC) aircraft were unregulated previously, but that the rules which governed them simply couldn’t keep up with the rapid evolution of the technology we’ve seen over the last few years. The previous FAA regulations for remotely operated aircraft were written in an era where RC flights were lower and slower, and long before remote video technology moved the operator out of the line of sight of their craft.

To address the spike in not only the capability of RC aircraft but their popularity, the Federal Aviation Administration was finally given the authority to oversee what are officially known as Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) with the repeal of Section 336 in the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018. Section 336, known as the “Special Rule for Model Aircraft” was previously put in place to ensure the FAA’s authority was limited to “real” aircraft, and that small hobby RC aircraft would not be subject to the same scrutiny as their full-size counterparts. With Section 336 gone, one could interpret the new FAA directives as holding manned and unmanned aircraft and their operators to the same standards; an unreasonable position that many in the hobby strongly rejected.

At the time, the FAA argued that the repealing Section 336 would allow them to create new UAS regulations from a position of strength. In other words, start with harsh limits and regulations, and begin to whittle them down until a balance is found that everyone is happy with. U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao has revealed the first of these refined rules are being worked on, and while they aren’t yet official, it seems like the FAA is keeping to their word of trying to find a reasonable middle ground for hobby fliers.

Proposed Rule Changes

Under the current FAA rules, flying a UAS or drone over people or at night is prohibited unless you apply for a special Part 107 waiver. To the credit of the FAA, they have been granting waivers for drone pilots who make reasonable requests, as evidenced by the public list of granted waivers. But as one might expect when dealing with the federal government, it’s still a burdensome process. Not only can it take up to 90 days to review your application, but according to the FAA’s own numbers, most waiver applications are denied due to lack of necessary information.

The new proposed rules would allow for flights at night and over people without going through the waiver process, as long as other conditions are met. These rules wouldn’t replace the waivers, but would offer another path forward for those who are willing (or able) to meet the requirements. This nuanced approach means that waivers could still be granted for one-off events or experiments, but those who want to regularly fly at night or over people have a more permanent option available to them.

Choice is always a good thing, especially when it comes to hobbyists or experimenters. If the official path towards these restricted flights is too difficult or expensive for the individual, at least they’ll still have the ability to apply for a waiver on a case-by-case basis. So the only question is, what exactly would the requirements be under the proposed changes?

Night Flying

For night flying the operator must pass an approved night-flying knowledge test and the UAS itself must sport a visible anti-collision light. The information pertaining to this test, such as brochures and training videos, will be made available for free on the FAA website. As for the anti-collision light, the only requirement is that it be visible for three statute miles.

Aveo Engineering PicoMax

According to the draft version of the new rules, some thought had been given to more complex lighting requirements, such as strobes or multi-colored navigational lights, but eventually it was determined they were an unreasonable burden. It specifically states that the size and limited battery capacity of small drones makes it unreasonable to ask manufacturers to include complex lighting systems.

Interestingly, the three statute mile visible anti-collision light is the same requirement placed on ultralight aircraft (as well as larger, commercial drones), so there are already small commercially available LED modules which are FAA certified to meet this requirement. Retrofitting these onto remotely controlled aircraft should pose no great difficulty, and it’s hard to argue against the need for a clearly visible anti-collision light on an object flying around at night.

Flying over People

The proposed rules for flying over people are considerably more complex, as the FAA aims to categorize UAS by their likelihood to cause bodily harm in the event of a collision. This takes into account not only weight, but design elements such as exposed propellers. The FAA recommendations go as far as saying that manufacturers of larger drones would need to utilize features such as crumple zones so the kinetic energy of any potential impact will be reduced.

This classification system will put the burden on commercial manufacturers, and it seems likely that only the most expensive turn-key drones are likely to feature the required safety features to be eligible for regular flight over people. If you’re in an industry where you need this capability (film makers, sports coverage, news, etc), then these are considerations you need to make when purchasing your next aerial photography platform.

Luckily for hobbyists and other aerial hackers, these requirements don’t kick in unless the drone weighs more than 250 grams. Under these proposed rule changes, anything at or below that weight will be freely able to fly over people with no design recommendations or additional requirements. As weight reduction has been the name of the game in the world of hobby quadcopters for some time, many very capable designs come in far below the 250 gram threshold. Considering that as of this writing the flight of any drone over people is illegal without prior FAA approval, this is likely to be a very popular change.

Keeping the Hobby Fun

Over the last five years or so, we’ve seen a dizzying array of new rules and regulations for small unmanned aircraft. It’s getting to the point that those looking to get into the hobby might get intimidated and lose interest. Considering how quickly the media will jump on any negative “drone” story, it’s hard to blame them. Nobody wants to get arrested for flying a quadcopter in their backyard because they didn’t file the appropriate paperwork.

But with a little luck, and some input from the community, we may be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. These proposed rule changes seem, at least on the surface, to be reasonable solutions to two very common scenarios the average remote operator might find themselves in. Hopefully future refinements to the FAA’s drone rules will continue to clearly differentiate between hobby and commercial operators, and streamline the process for recreational fliers.

77 thoughts on “FAA Proposes Refined Drone Regulations

  1. “The wheels of government move slowly, far slower than the pace at which modern technology is evolving.”

    Is it really evolving that fast? Power sources seems to be the biggest slowdown. Everything else keeps getting smaller, and lighter.

    1. Yeah, there are some pretty large assumptions that the author takes with this article.

      “Which is not to say that remotely controlled (RC) aircraft were unregulated previously, but that the rules which governed them simply couldn’t keep up with the rapid evolution of the technology we’ve seen over the last few years.”

      Like what? What evolution of technology has lead to a public danger so great that new regulation must be enacted? Yes, flight controllers for quads have gotten better and people have become interested in the hobby, but I have seen no reasonable explanation of a increase in danger.

      Make no mistake, these regulations are about 1 thing, and 1 thing only: MONEY. With Amazon, DHL, and others wanting to use this airspace for deliveries, now it is monetizable. Hobbyists are still a super minority, and they have no pull in politics. There wasn’t a single hobbyist or hobbyist organization at the last FAA round table. The AMA was supposed to be the group that would defend RC, but when they came for the quads they were silent. It wasn’t until the FAA was rolling up all RC craft into the same group that they started squawking. It was too little too late.

      1. Literally the lines after the ones you quoted explains it, but I guess that would have made it harder for you to make your “point” and rant nonsense so I can see why you’d leave it off.

        1. Literally NONE of the lines in the article list any dangers to the public. They talk of speed and distance, yet there are little to none as far as actual injuries to bystanders from drones. Maybe a few bumps and bruises, but no real danger.
          These rules aren’t about public safety, they are about corporate profits and kickbacks.

        2. As Reasonable Man has already said, there is no mention in this article of what sort of dangers ‘drones’ pose to the public. RC has been around for a century, and ‘drones’ really hit in popularity almost a decade ago. I have yet to see a level of danger posed by RC that accounts for even a sliver of the attention it has gotten.

          1. The number of people flying them increases: risk of accident increases.
            The distance and capacity of the drones increases: people fly them further away and risk radio link breakup, driving the drones into the public.

            Basically it boils down to: previously flying RC things were expensive and fickle, so only those who had the money and responsibility/common sense to operate them would. Now they’re becoming like BB guns with every Tom, Dick and Harry being able to buy one for their snot-nosed kids, who fly them into traffic or office building windows, peep on their neighbors, disrupt police/hospital helicopters and airports, smuggle drugs into prisons, and generally cause mayhem with them.

        1. Really? That seems ridiculously heavy. I think mine was around half that. That said, still a long way from 250g. There’s a big difference between the little micro setups with their cheesy little FPV cams, and something that can fly fast, and record nice looking video.

      1. A single 18650 cell weighs 45g, so it seems pretty reasonable to make small drones with total weight under 250g.

        With watercraft in my state, a small raft or even canoe doesn’t need to be registered, but a large canoe does. Most watercraft need to be registered, but if you don’t want to register and just choose the smallest watercraft, no problem. Which also means, if you aren’t serious about it, you just want to go fishing in the cheapest watercraft available, it won’t need registration.

        This seems similar to that; the cheapest drones with small batteries and limited air time will be unregistered, and the ones for more serious hobbyists do need to be registered.

    1. “That seems surprisingly reasonable.”


      It is tough to build a 4″ quad under 250 grams, and you can forget about carrying a GoPro.

      I don’t own a single plane that is under 250 grams, and they are all designed to be flown in a small area like a park.

      250 grams is nothing.

  2. First it was that rules don’t apply to under 1kg drones. Then manufacturers made capable sub1kg drones.
    Then it was that rules don’t apply to under 500g drones. Then manufacturers made capable sub500gkg drones.
    Now it’s rules that don’t apply to under 250g drones.

    As soon as capable commercial drones that weigh less than 250g come on the market the government will move the goalpost to 100g.

    This is very unreasonable since a normal pigeon is around 900 grams.

    1. You’re not entirely wrong, but I’d rather hit a 250g drone at 140 kts while flying than a 1 kg one – there’s a very good chance that damage wouldn’t damage the aircraft much if at all. Pigeons are usually okay, Canada Geese (ca 5kg) not so much.

      1. I’m sorry but that can be tackled by no-fly maps in software. The intersection of aircraft and drones is no reason to limit the development of drones in such a draconian matter and it’s no explanation for the moving goalposts.

        1. I live in a geographically large state, and there are very, very few areas that regular civil aircraft are not allowed to go; effectively anywhere.

          So software no fly zones wouldn’t help. And anyways, what would that mean? You want the drones to only fly in places where regular planes are not allowed to fly? What happens when your software malfunctions?

          Also, are you planning to ban custom drone software? If I want to do-it-myself, I’m not going to have a software no-fly anything the first time I fly.

          It seems that to address the concern of hazard to registered civil aircraft, your proposal would have to be even more draconian than what it is replacing; which, considering the history around the historical Draco, makes it even more literally Draconian! (Draco was elected lawgiver, but everybody was surprised by how strict his laws were)

          As far as “moving the goalposts,” when they say that they’re not sure what the rules will eventually be, and provide provisional ones, and then they change them, no goalposts were moved. They communicated clearly that they were not establishing a fixed goal-post for the future, but instead a temporary goal cone that was designed to be moved multiple times in order to discover through experience where the best location is.

        1. One time I was in Portland and a full soda can dropped from 4+ stories and landed on the sidewalk nearby. It was pretty scary, but luckily nobody got hurt.

          It is rare, but if you were going to operate a crane above a crowd of people, you would absolutely want to make sure that there were not hazards like soda cans up there that could fall on people. You would not want to be serving cans of soda on an outdoor platform on top of a crane, operated above a crowd. That’s almost the exact same danger as operating a drone of that size above a crowd.

          1. Now I understand why 5lbs. of poo @ 30,000 ft. barely fits into a 10 lb. bag after timing and gravity decide my place looks as good as any.

    1. Well the new regulations certainly don’t imply you would enjoy the experience of being hit with a 250 gram object moving at high-speed, just that it’s not likely to do serious harm (spinning propellers included).

        1. Yes, 250 gram objects can do harm. In fact, a 250.1 gram regulated object does as much damage as an unregulated 249.9 gram unregulated object…

          The likelihood (or occurrence on a FMEA) is so low that it is astonishing we are having to talk about it.

          1. I wonder if that is a feature of every type of rule that requires drawing a line?

            Like, if I was building a rocket at home, is there some line where if I make it a little bit bigger I need a license?

            When driving a car, if I get close enough to the yellow line, will another centimeter be too far? Another millimeter?

            What about my property line, does it matter down the smallest available measurement, or just whatever sounds good to me at the time?

            Is it necessary for perfection to be that big an enemy? Is it necessary for abstract perfection even to be an enemy?

  3. You are not correct in saying that Part 107 certification allows for flying drones over people and at night. That is incorrect. Regardless of whether or not the RPIC is Part 107 certified, you CANNOT fly a drone over people or at night.

    1. You are less free. Congratulations to everyone for bitching about the rule as opposed to disregarding it, as I plan to do – only because I fly model planes and helicopters…not “drones”. Give ‘em 20 more years and they’ll have you registering every hair on your ass. Time for some civil disobedience indeed. To hell with the FAA. They wont be happy until your not happy…that is exactly what they specialize in…

  4. “It’s getting to the point that those looking to get into the hobby might get intimidated and lose interest. ”

    I live in Germany. My interest in drones has gone some time ago. It is not the additional rules to follow and tests to pass, it is also the requirement to again drive out of the city to fly and to have yet another insurance which costs regardless of the actual drone useage. That is what before drones made rc planes unattractive to me in the first place.

    The main point is that these regulations may be overthrown or tightened again any time in the future, and the investment of time, money and dedication is rendered useless.

    Maybe all the people who back off from drone flying should put their efforts in building tethered balloons ;) but that will be considered terrorism agains state operated drones.

    1. “It’s getting to the point that those looking to get into the hobby might get intimidated and lose interest. ”
      I see that already. Not only with newbies, but with long standing members. I am part of an R/C club with our own field. We of course have flown under the simple AMA rules over the years (and currently) with no problems. Just go out and have fun. Now we hear talk of NOTAMs, tests, registering with the government, etc. just to fly around our field. See, the problem is the ‘drone’ covers ‘all’ of our hobby. We don’t fly drones … we fly airplanes (sail planes, acrobatic, slow flyers, etc.) and jets within unaided eyesight range (no binoculars, etc.) . We don’t fly just anywhere, nor over people. To us, we see the ‘drone’ market as a plague that has caused all this mess affecting all of us. Very irritating as we have been able to keep ‘under the radar’ so to speak until the cheap ‘drone’ arrived that ‘anyone’ could fly. Misuse has caused the hammer to fall. Sad really. We did have a wonderful hobby.

      1. “To us, we see the ‘drone’ market as a plague that has caused all this mess affecting all of us.”

        In my opinion, this is a big reason view is why these regulations have made it so far and will continue. Instead of helping out the community and educating people, you sat on the sidelines as they marched towards ‘drone regulations.’ You even propagate the ‘misuse’ lie. Your attacks on drone flyers does not hurt drone flyers, it hurts everyone that flies. There is no added danger to having a cheap drone market. The fad is dying as fast as it grew. Just like the AMA and a lot of their members, you probably cheered and welcomed the government led death of those pesky multi prop flying contraptions. Then “oh crap! they are coming for us too!”

        Enjoy your high horse while you can. At least once RC flying is illegal you’ll still be able to yell at the kids to stay off your lawn!

        1. Your comment stems from a lack of understanding and appreciation of what has been going on in discussions and workshops for years. The AMA has been meeting with the FAA many times and it was the FAA, not the AMA, that reneged on their own commitments multiple times. Similar discussions have been had with EASA over on the other side of the pond. The problem was not that RC hobbyists were “on a high horse”. The major driver was commercial interests putting a stake in the ground and proclaiming that they, and not those “hobbyists”, should be allowed to fly with a minimum of regulation. Add to that the regular hysteria that was fanned by certain stakeholders in the aviation industry, and you have the perfect storm we’re in right now.

          The fact of the matter is this: RC hobbyists flying at registered sites and in clubs have had been publishing and following safety rules for well over 50 years. RC hobbyists were at the forefront of multicopter flight controller development, lest not you forget the first KUK stabilizer boards which came well before MultiWii was a thing. There is no conflict between “drone flyers” and “oldschool RC pilots” unless you’re falling into the divide-and-conquer trap other people have set out for us. We’re all flying for fun, and we’re flying *all* kinds of things, from fixed wing to ornithopters.

          The only difference is that RC club pilots follow published safety rules and fly at established flying sites. Are there some idiots who whine about multicopters? Sure there are. I remember hearing the same snide comments when I was switching to 2.4GHz back in 2005, or when I was flying electric EPP jets back when that was a weird thing. And you know what? It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t mean RC clubs don’t welcome you, far from it. I think you’ll find that most RC clubs would gladly have you as a member, and if they don’t then they are truly stupid.

          The only thing nobody will have sympathy for is when people operate their RC gear in an unsafe manner or in stupid locations. If you think you can just let your mavic do waypoints over your suburban neighborhood, you’re wrong and stupid. And when RC guys complain about such behavior, then that’s not a high horse they’re sitting on, but common sense.

          1. Hi Mr. Extravaganza!

            I don’t know how you can read rclark’s comment and not see his “us vs. them” mentality. He literally said “See, the problem is the ‘drone’ covers ‘all’ of our hobby.“ You seem like a reasonable guy and you understand the pickle we are in. Also, I did not say that RC hobbyists were on a high horse, I was saying that rclark and guys like him are.

            Now to as your assertion that I have a lack of understanding and appreciation of what the AMA has done. I know all about the discussions and workshops: I’ve attended regional meetings, watched every FAA discussion on CSPAN that I’ve known about, and I’ve written and called my legislators. Maybe it is just my region, but there is most definitely a rift between “oldschool RC pilots” and many other groups. Hell, even before quads I showed up to a local field’s open house day with my AMA card and foamy in hand and it wasn’t just snide comments, they wouldn’t let me fly! Since then I’ve visited a total of 4 fields in my area, and none of them are interested in what I would call ‘modern’ flight. No small foamies, no multirotors, no FPV. Basically, if it isn’t big, hard to fly, and expensive, they don’t want to see it. I just recently visited one of the club’s website and they are down to a handful of guys and they are brainstorming how to get more members, ha! I’ve got my own land now, so I don’t care about joining a club.

            My opinion is the second the AMA started talking about compromise, we lost. You do not give an inch to the US Government; they will take a mile. Registration is also incredibly stupid, and at best, helps you find a perpetrator after the fact. More likely, if someone has decided to do something nefarious, they will not be registered.

            When I said “Just like the AMA and a lot of their members, you probably cheered and welcomed the government led death of those pesky multi prop flying contraptions” I wasn’t just pulling that out of thin air. When the AMA and FAA first started talking before we got the first version of the registry, this was the sentiment in at the club I visited.

            Again, uninformed people may make unsafe flying choices, but I think informing them is the correct path, not legislating. Also, if there is an appreciable amount of reduction of public safety due to ‘drones’ that matches the level of legislation that has been done, I haven’t found it in my research.

        2. Not on a ‘high horse’ at all. and it’s not a lie. It’s the high profile misuse of quads (for the most part) that has brought us to the attention from the government (and the media) and of course the commercial side hammering from the other side hasn’t helped. As a club we welcome all pilots and planes/helis/quads small to big (free flight, gas, electric) from within our area. It is encouraged. We don’t want to lose are field over an ‘over reaction’ to rogue pilots. Some members have dabbled in in FPV even and autonomous flying… but all within the guidelines of the club. We’ve been flying in the area since the early 70s with no problems with the community or airport. We’ve had a mall show every year, a fly in every year for educational purposes. We are even trying to get into the school system to promote the hobby. But the past couple of years we have had to meet with airport board, the land board, lay out some paperwork, etc. that we never have had to do. So yes, it does ‘irritate’ us a bit and of course it ‘seems’ the AMA hasn’t been as effective in Washington as we might have thought doesn’t help either.

          1. I applaud your outreach and club’s acceptance of all pilots.

            What sort of high profile misuse of quads are you referring to, and how will these rules help stop (not just after-the-fact punish) this misuse?

          2. Seems like they pop up a lot. Flying near fires, hovering near peoples windows, in stadiums, full scale pilot reports when landing. Doesn’t take a lot for the media and government to take notice and of course being in the hobby, one just zero’s in on them…

            And that is problem, NONE of the rules will help stop any of it… Because ‘they’ don’t abide by any rules anyway. But it does affect us which have to follow them…. Same with gun laws BTW.

  5. Meanwhile, people that don’t know or don’t care will continue to break the rules, and the only ones inconvenienced will be the users that are concerned about keeping it available.

    1. I understand what you’re getting at, but I don’t think that logic works here.

      These regulations are primarily to govern commercially made drones, which is what the vast majority of the ones flying around are. Yeah people building their own hardware from RC-grade components probably won’t follow a lot of the rules here, but if they can force the manufacturers to adhere to the rules (by threatening to pull their ability to sell them in the States), then that’s absolutely going to have an impact.

  6. “…start with harsh limits and regulations, and begin to whittle them down until a balance is found that everyone is happy with.”

    That is not how Government with centralized authority works. Power is never relinquished. The U.S. Government has evolved into a central authority (unlike the Founders intended). So expect unrelenting draconian control over your ability to use these drones.

      1. Yes, but your lack of respect for representative government doesn’t actually cause my freedom to be stolen. It neither prevents my votes from being counted, nor prevents the government from protecting my freedoms.

        If you look at history and see only reduction of freedom, rather than the continuous growth of freedom, it merely means that education isn’t growing at the same rate. History education might not even be growing at all.

  7. Can’t really say that RC planes were lower and slower when the old laws were written. Slope gliders have been exceeding 200 mph for a long time and glider pilots would lay on their backs with binoculars in one hand and remote in other and chase thermals over 5000 ft altitude! All that with no motor at all! Check out some slope glider videos, you’ll be amazed how fast they go, don’t let the FAA watch though…..

    1. It seems almost obvious, but since it wasn’t a popular hobby it also wasn’t a threat.

      I’m sure the FAA was aware of it all along, I doubt it would be something that amazed them if they saw it.

      A lot of people have dehumanized the people working at the FAA, so they don’t even imagine that they’re trained professionals with a strong personal interest in the subject matter. But it seems quite likely that FAA workers are more likely than average to be RC hobbyists.

      They might not actually be mindless “drones” who are irrationally upset by specific numbers, they might only be reacting to changes in the world around them. It might even be their job.

      1. Here we have that guy! Didn’t say anything about the FAA being amazed, but anyone who has never seen slope gliders!
        I’d tend to think that most FAA employees are into GA not RC actually.

        1. “that guy.” LOL Yeah, “that guy” that calls strangers “that guy” to their face.

          You said “amazed” and “don’t let the FAA watch though” in the same sentence. Honestly, you don’t seem to have understood my response, so I’m not sure why you’d think it means I’m one type of “guy” or another.

  8. It sounds reasonable to me too. With the coming commercialization of drones for delivery it will need to address visibility, altitude and the risks of mid-air collision harming commerce. If there is $ to be made from monetizing this the big players will want assurances of rules favoring them and not to benefit hobby/small commercial interests. If the hobby industry and users don’t bother to be heard then they can’t complain when rules change they don’t like.

  9. The limits are silly small though, and are just a way to get the general public to agree to something that sounds “reasonable” to someone with little to no experience.

    I sometimes like to put a gopro on mine to get some nice clear video.

    The gopro weighs over half of the 250g “cutoff” alone.
    That said, I try not to fly near people as much as possible.

    What I don’t like is regulations or guidelines which do nothing but interfere with the hobbies of the people who try to follow the rules.

    Here in Canada, the new rules in effect on June 1st say that if I want to fly within 30 metres horizonally of bystanders, I need to register my drown, mark it with the registration number, pass an exam and a flight review.

    No more flying in the park. Also, are other pilots considered bystanders? Am I still allowed to fly with my friends. Or people who want to watch, because it’s fun?

    Also, on the new rules page:

    “Unless you have Transport Canada approval, you cannot fly closer than:

    5.6 kilometres (3 nautical miles) from any airport listed in the Canada Flight Supplement”

    Firstly, The Canada Flight Supplement is only available by subscription at $16.50, and is valid for 56 days, so I’m not sure which airports are included.

    More importantly, 5.6km sounds reasonable to most people, until you look at the map (they have one on the transport canada website). The whole town I grew up has an airport in the middle, and is less than 11.2km across.
    I guess no drones allowed anywhere in town..

    I mean, I’d be fine with a slope, like 20m of altitude max for each km of distance, or something like that. At least then back yard or park flying would be allowed, but as it is, your only option to technically follow those rules is to drive somewhere out half way between towns and find a good place to fly. Of course, that’s probably trespassing on someone’s farm, so I guess the rule is just “NO”?

    1. To be honest, when drones are flying over me in public I don’t care at all what the weight of Somebrand(TM) camera is, or how that affects your use case; I only care about if it presents a risk to my safety, and if so I don’t want you to be doing it in public.

  10. I have hundreds of acres of private property with zero population and extremely few (legal) low flying air craft. How exactly is it acceptable that I can’t fly my drone at safe altitudes over my property out of my line of sight or at night?

    Hint: it isn’t.

    1. For the same reason that you’re not allowed to shut down the GPS system by refusing over-flight permission to satellites. And the reason why they never even asked your permission in the first place.

      And, the law doesn’t apply to your private near-ground airspace in the first place. It never did. And it doesn’t need to be specially worded to make that clear, either; it talks about all the airspace below 500 ft, but the law still only applies to airspace controlled by the US government.

      In 1946, the Supreme Court found that property owners possessed the airspace below 365 ft. Currently, the exact line is unclear. But it is clear that if you’re flying around in your yard, no problem. And whatever height you’d be allowed to build a structure, you’re clearly and unequivocally in possession of. But airspace above what you’d be allowed to use for traditional purposes like buildings and trees is not clearly or obviously in your possession.

      You might simply be upset because you’re unaware of the location of your property lines, or unaware that the FAA doesn’t regulate the airspace that actually belongs to you.

      In a city where the land is zoned such that buildings can only go up to 40ft, it is unlikely that private airspace extends above the height you could reasonably expect a tree to grow. But you still have at least that much.

        1. That is exactly the point. If the zoning lets you build a skyscraper to some height, you own the rest of the airspace on the lot up to that level, and the level you can reasonably be reachable above it.

          It doesn’t cause any “interesting” effects at all. It simply varies depending on the location, but clearly includes the buildings and trees.

  11. What is the terminal velocity of a typical 250 gm (or, larger, plz specify,) drone in freefall from ceiling???

    I have read of people who died from a freefalling 90 gm item. Children are especially sensitive to head impacts.

    Small unlicensed aircraft are allowed extra weight IF a ballistic parachute is added. Chute deploying tiny rocket engines now exist, and could be smaller yet for this purpose.

    1. I think it’s interesting that just in these comments we’ve seen people complaining that the 250 gram limit is far too low, and at the same time dangerously high.

      Really an excellent example of why this kind of legislation is so hard to get right, everyone has their own opinions and they often are in direct conflict.

  12. In my part of Kansas the relatively calm days are so few and far in between, it keeps the old school RC pilots ground a lot. Mees up their goal to fly one time every month For that reason I don’t expect a large amount of quad copters sold around here. particularly the inexpensive toys at Walmart. Perhaps if the sale barn would open to allow kids of all ages to play with their toys on no sale days. In regards to freedoms; what happened to the concept my freedoms end where impact others, and vice versa. That always included reasonable calculable threats.

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