FAA Drone Rules – New rules for Model Aircraft Operators

Update: The FAA now requires that nearly all Drones must be registered and marked appropriately.

The FAA issues new rules for drones in a press release yesterday that has model aircraft and drone enthusiasts in an uproar.  Here’s the release on the new FAA Drone Rules:

For Immediate Release

June 23, 2014
Contact: Les Dorr, Jr. or Alison Duquette
Phone: (202) 267-3883

Agency issues interpretation of  2012 Reauthorization Law, restates authority to take enforcement action against hazardous operations.

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) today published a Federal Register notice on its interpretation of the statutory special rules for model aircraft in the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. The guidance comes after recent incidents involving the reckless use of unmanned model aircraft near airports and involving large crowds of people.

Compliance with these rules for model aircraft operators has been required since the Act was signed on February 14, 2012, and the explanation provided today does not change that fact. The FAA is issuing the notice to provide clear guidance to model operators on the “do’s and don’ts” of flying safely in accordance with the Act and to answer many of the questions it has received regarding the scope and application of the rules.

“We want people who fly model aircraft for recreation to enjoy their hobby – but to enjoy it safely,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “At DOT, we often say that safety is a shared responsibility, so to help, we are providing additional information today to make sure model aircraft operators know exactly what’s expected of them.”

In the notice, the FAA restates the law’s definition of “model aircraft,” including requirements that they not interfere with manned aircraft, be flown within sight of the operator and be operated only for hobby or recreational purposes. The agency also explains that model aircraft operators flying within five miles of an airport must notify the airport operator and air traffic control tower.

The FAA reaffirms that the Act’s model aircraft provisions apply only to hobby or recreation operations and do not authorize the use of model aircraft for commercial operations. The notice gives examples of hobby or recreation flights, as well as examples of operations that would not meet that definition.

“We have a mandate to protect the American people in the air and on the ground, and the public expects us to carry out that mission,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta.

The law is clear that the FAA may take enforcement action against model aircraft operators who operate their aircraft in a manner that endangers the safety of the national airspace system. In the notice, the FAA explains that this enforcement authority is designed to protect users of the airspace as well as people and property on the ground.

The FAA will be working with its inspectors and model aircraft operators across the country to ensure they give standard information to the public on how to satisfy these statutory requirements and avoid endangering the safety of the nation’s airspace.

The FAA is also developing a plan to work with the law enforcement community to help them understand the FAA’s rules for unmanned aircraft systems, as well as the special statutory rules for model aircraft operators, so they can more effectively protect public safety.

The agency wants the public to know how and when to contact the FAA regarding safety concerns with UAS operations. You can visit the Agency’s Aviation Safety Hotline website or call 1-866-835-5322, Option 4.

While today’s notice is immediately effective, the agency welcomes comments from the public which may help further inform its analysis. The comment period for the notice will close 30 days from publication in the Federal Register.

You can view the specific FAA notice here.

Our thoughts:

  • First, we find it really sad, that due to a low percentage of irresponsible Drone owners, that those of us that are responsible have to suffer.
  • This “clarification” makes a very clear distinction between “hobby” and “commercial”.  Commercial use is not considered “Model Aircraft” and requirements would not be the same.
  • The announcement eliminates the use of FPV Goggles, as they hinder line of site – this is huge.
  • Use of Drones for Real Estate photography is clearly prohibited
  • The whole release strongly implies that enforcement action will be taken when model aircraft owners do not comply.
  • We suspect that most drone owners will “losely” comply with the new “clarifications”.

What are your thoughts on this announcement?


One comment

  1. LibertyOverPromisedSafety

    I was wondering how the FAA would have Jurisdiction in most instances of normal drone flight since most drone flight occurs below ANY aircraft level and also because most drone flight is entirely INTRASTATE which puts it plainly outside of Federal Jurisdiction and it is up to the respective States of the Union individually what to do about this issue.
    REGARDLESS, Liberty is Paramount in America and I feel that this clearly for the most part is not a safety issue for 99.9% of Drone flight. Whatever idiots were flying into and over FEDERAL property (hence the FAA griping) do NOT represent the vast majority of Drone users. As for the ‘commercial’ end of things, once again, the FEDS have jurisdiction in THEIR properties and over INTERstate commerce. The FEDS do NOT have jurisdiction over INTRAstate happenings unless its related to Federal Jurisdiction such as incidents of idiots flying drones into airports on Fed property and in Fed airspace. Drones are a part of our future unfolding and they WILL be used for commercial purposes and already are.
    The question is will the Feds and State governments butt out enough to START reasonable regulations of such activity to facilitate commerce and create liberty OR will they continue to be an hindrance to the advancement of society and impede our RIGHT to fly drones when it hurts no one nor causes interference with other aircraft. Bottom line, this is mostly a STATE level issue and the FEDS are overstepping there bounds once again as if they are to be acting as police on a state level!
    Drones are fun and could deliver a hot pizza quicker than a car driver; just a thought. We need law and order sure but not total prohibition of drone usage in any context. Prohibition is the anti-thesis of liberty.
    Perhaps FPV wont googles wont hinder line of sight once i finish hacking them so I can see my FPV screen and look out at the world through portholes to monitor my drone with line of sight as well!!! so HA! Don’t be afraid to fly people! the Feds don’t typically have jurisdiction and if you want liberty to fly your drones you better keep on flyin’ and speaking out.
    I challenge ANYONE and also the FAA to PROVE that they have jurisdiction, concerning drone flight, commercial or otherwise, that is purely INTRAstate flight of drones below minimum lawful flight levels of of any federally regulated aircrafts. This is the first post to this article and you can bet that the tumble weed of silence will keep on a blowin when it comes to providing an answer to my question but there will likely be much contention.
    Know your rights people! Make em’ prove it in court! You could sue the FAA to provide proof of such jurisdiction and force them to default!
    Oh, look, its time to go fly my DRONE whether the FAA likes it or not!

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