Our hobby has faced many challenges this year as we address an increase in government intervention and proposed regulations. AMA has been aggressively advocating for our hobby, and during the past few weeks, we’ve been happy to report successful progress.
Today, our members have yet another AMA government advocacy victory to celebrate.
There has been confusion among our members as to whether operations above 400 feet are permitted by the FAA. AMA has remained steadfast that the Special Rule for Model Aircraft (Section 336 of the 2012 FAA Modernization and Reform Act) permits operations above 400 feet if conducted within our safety program requiring the pilot to be an AMA member, to avoid and not interfere with manned aircraft, and to keep the model in visual line of sight of the pilot/observer.
In January of this year, the AMA requested that the FAA clarify the 400-foot issue in writing. We are happy to share that in a recent letter to the AMA, the FAA recognized AMA’s role as a community-based organization and acknowledged our safety program, including allowing flight above 400 feet under appropriate circumstances.
In this letter, dated July 7, 2016, the FAA states:
“…model aircraft may be flow consistently with Section 336 and agency guidelines at altitudes above 400 feet when following a community-based organization’s safety guidelines.”
“Community-based organizations, such as the Academy of Model Aeronautics, may establish altitude limitations in their safety guidelines that exceed the FAA’s 400 AGL altitude recommendation.”
Essentially, this letter confirms that sailplanes, large model aircraft, turbines, and other disciplines can responsibly operate above 400 feet if the AMA member is operating within our safety programming. Equally important, the FAA again acknowledges AMA as a community-based organization.
This victory falls on the heels of other successful AMA efforts, including an AMA member exemption from the FAA’s Final sUAS Rule (Part 107), the removal of problematic text in the 2016 FAA Reauthorization Bill, and preserving the Special Rule for Model Aircraft through 2017.
These successes do not transpire easily and our advocacy efforts are not over. We will continue to work with the FAA toward reducing the burden of registration requirements on AMA members. Throughout the next 14 months, we will continue to work with Congress toward a long-term reauthorization bill that will further strengthen the Special Rule for Model Aircraft.
We want to extend our appreciation to all of our members and donors for your support throughout this process. To read the letter from the FAA clarifying the 400-foot guidance, visit www.modelaircraft.org/gov.
AMA Government Relations Team
We are happy to announce big news related to FAA authorization. As of today, both the Senate and House of Representatives have passed a 14-month FAA extension, and the President has signed the bill into law.
We are very pleased that the FAA extension affirms our right to continue to fly within AMA’s community-based safety program and free from additional government regulations. Congress continues to recognize the importance of AMA and our strong commitment to safety.
As you know, AMA aggressively engaged with Congress to achieve the best possible result for our members. It is through these advocacy efforts that we were able to achieve our goal of maintaining the Special Rule for Model Aircraft and protecting our hobby. This victory adds to AMA’s history of successfully advocating for our members at the federal level, including with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Department of Commerce, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of the Interior, the U.S. Forrest Service, the Department of Homeland Security, the FAA and Congress.
There are two important things for all AMA members to know about the extension. The first, and most important for our hobby, is that the extension preserves the Special Rule for Model Aircraft (Section 336 of the 2012 FAA Modernization and Reform Act) through September 2017. And second, while this bill does not nullify FAA’s requirement to register, we are pleased to share that the problematic language that existed in earlier FAA bills has been removed.
Our advocacy efforts are not over – we continue to work with the FAA on reducing the burden of the registration requirement on AMA members. And, over the next 14 months, we will continue to work with Congress on a long-term reauthorization bill that will further strengthen the Special Rule for Model Aircraft and advance other protections of our longstanding hobby.
We want to extend our appreciation to all of our members and donors for your support throughout this process.
AMA Government Affairs Team
June 21, 2016
WASHINGTON – Today, the Department of Transportation’s FAA has finalized the first operational rules for routine commercial use of small unmanned aircraft systems – UAS or “drones” – opening pathways towards fully integrating UAS into the nation’s airspace. These new regulations work to harness new innovations safely, to increase job growth, advance critical scientific research and save lives. The new regulations will create new opportunities for business and government to use drones.
“We are part of a new era in aviation, and the potential for unmanned aircraft will make it safer and easier to do jobs, gather information, and deploy disaster relief,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary A. Foxx. “We look forward to working with the aviation community to support innovation, while maintaining our standards as the safest and most complex airspace in the world.”
It is estimated that the rule could generate more than $82 billion for the U.S. economy and create more than 100,000 new jobs over the next 10 years. The new rule, which takes effect in late August, offers safety regulations for drones weighing less than 55 pounds that are conducting non-hobbyist operations.
The rule’s provisions are designed to minimize risks to other aircraft, people and property on the ground. The regulations require pilots to keep an unmanned aircraft within visual line of sight (LOS). Operations are allowed during daylight and during twilight if the drone has anti-collision lights. The new regulations also address height and speed limitations and other operational limits, such as prohibiting flights over unprotected people on the ground who aren’t directly participating in the UAS operation.
The FAA is offering a way to waive some restrictions if an operator proves the proposed flight will be conducted safely under a waiver. The FAA will also make an online portal available to apply for these waivers in the months ahead.
“With this new rule, we are taking a careful and deliberate approach that balances the need to deploy this new technology with the FAA’s mission to protect the public,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “We’re already working on additional rules that will expand the range of operations.”
Under the final rule the person flying a drone must be at least 16 years old and have a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating, or be directly supervised by someone with a certificate. To qualify for a remote pilot certificate, an individual must either pass an aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center or have an existing non-student Part 61 pilot certificate. If qualifying under the latter provision, a pilot must have completed a flight review in the previous 24 months and must take a UAS online training course provided by the FAA. The TSA will conduct a security background check of all remote pilot applications prior to issuing a certificate.
Pilots are responsible for ensuring a drone is safe before flying, but the FAA is not requiring small UAS to comply with current agency airworthiness standards or aircraft certification. Instead, the remote pilot will simply have to perform a preflight visual and operational check of the small drone to ensure that safety-pertinent systems are functioning property. This includes checking the communications link between the control station and the UAS.
The new rule does not specifically deal with privacy issues in the use of drones, and the FAA does not regulate how UAS gather data on people or property, the FAA is acting to address privacy considerations. The FAA encourages all UAS pilots to check local and state laws before gathering information through remote sensing technology or photography.
The agency will provide all drone users with recommended privacy guidelines as part of the UAS registration process and through the FAA’s B4UFly mobile app. The FAA also will educate all commercial drone pilots on privacy during their pilot certification process, and will issue new guidance to local and state government on drone privacy issues. The FAA’s effort builds on the privacy “best practices” (PDF) the National Telecommunications and Information Administration published last month as the result of a year-long outreach initiative with privacy advocates and industry.
Part 107 will not apply to model aircraft. Model aircraft operators must continue to satisfy all the criteria specified in Section 336 of Public Law 112-95 (PDF) (which will now be codified in Part 101), including the stipulation they be operated only for hobby or recreational purposes.