FPV flyer faces investigation

Peggy Gilligan

sUAS News recently asked FAA Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety, Peggy Gilligan about the First Person View flight undertaken in New York by Austrian Raphael Pirker.

As Associate Administrator, Ms. Gilligan leads the organization responsible for setting, overseeing, and enforcing safety standards for all parts of the aviation industry – airlines, manufacturers, repair stations, pilots, mechanics, air traffic controllers, and any person or product that operates in aviation. These programs have a direct impact on every facet of domestic and international civil aviation safety.

We are very grateful that Ms Gilligan took the time to answer, heres what she said.

“This event remains under investigation by FAA as well as by some law enforcement organizations in the NYC area.  We do intend to notify the operator of the investigation — although I understand he is not a US citizen and we believe he is not in the US”

It will be interesting to see which particular rules may or may not have been broken during Trappys flight. We doubt very much if it will have any impact on the forthcoming SFAR 107 discussions.

Rich Hanson of the AMA had the following to say about the flight back in December

New York City First Person View Video

A recent video posted to YouTube depicts a First Person View (FPV) video flight of an unmanned aircraft over New York Bay; Long Island; the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges; Liberty Island and the Statue of Liberty; over and in close proximity to buildings, occupied vehicles and water vessels; and directly over unprotected people. The nature of the flight was outside the realm of recreational aeromodeling activity as defined by the AMA Safety Code and posed a significant threat to people and property.

Although AMA recognizes the ingenuity and creativity of this activity, it does not condone the manner in which this flight was conducted and the threat it posed to the public.

AMA has provided specific guidelines for FPV activity for its members. These guidelines and related safety considerations can be found in the AMA Safety Code and in AMA document #550, “First Person View (FPV) Operations.”

– Rich Hanson, AMA Government Relations and Regulatory Affairs Representative

First Person View (FPV) Operations

1. An FPV-equipped model must be flown by two AMA members utilizing a buddy-box system. The pilot in command must be on the primary transmitter, maintain visual contact, and be prepared to assume control in the event of a problem.
2. The operational range of the model is limited to the pilot in command’s visual line of sight as defined in the Official AMA National Model Aircraft Safety Code (see Radio Control, item 9).
3. The flight path of model operations shall be limited to the designated flying site and approved overfly area.
4. The model weight and speed shall be limited to a maximum of 10 pounds and 60 miles per hour.

  9 comments for “FPV flyer faces investigation

  1. john4153
    7 February 2011 at 6:55 pm

    This is the sort of stunt that will encourage our government to clamp onerous restrictions on every other modeler who wouldn’t think of doing such a foolish thing. I am surprised the AMA cooperated with FPV by providing specific recommendations to it. Who at the AMA authorized such cooperation? Saying you don’t condone something is a far cry from saying you condemn it.

  2. Duane Brocious
    7 February 2011 at 9:17 pm

    I hate to say I told you so…..
    Unless he did this for profit, the only thing the FAA can hang their hat on is AC 91-57. I wonder if (after 30 years) they will remember that the AC is not mandatory and that the AMA let the FAA know that the AMA and its members will ignore the AC and make up their own rules.
    Yes, this guy was a jerk. No, the FAA has no grounds to do anything unless they suddenly want to persecute him for doing what the AMA has been doing for 30 years (IE: ignoring AC 91-57).
    The only entity that can do anything is NYC if they have applicable laws in place. The FAA currently has no rules for recreational sUAS, they are not even into NPRM yet.

  3. Brandon15
    8 February 2011 at 1:14 am

    I’m not sure what you mean by the AMA ignoring AC 91-57? Most everything stated in that document is part of the AMA Rules & Regs posted at most AMA sanctioned fields and as a member you also receive a copy through the mail.
    That said yes there idiots out there that ignore this, but for the most part and AMA as whole we abide by this as much as possible.

  4. Michel Cote
    9 February 2011 at 5:55 pm

    Could you define : posed a significant threat to people and property.

    Just to put things in perspective
    I prefer having this over me than men and women carrying hand gun in their wallet around me in the street.

    This wont sink any boat. It would be difficult to break a window.
    Maybe It could scare a pilot from a prop strike. but it is no more dangerous than a same sized bird.

    I beleive that internet and Youtube show thing that happen 1/1000000 and that we tend to think that is generalised.
    Before that, plenty of other dangerous behavior existed and still exist but since none were available to public not much people cared and did not know about it.

    That said. I agree that some sort of control must be implemented.
    The birds flight enveloppe and size might be something to look as a base for rules about this.


    Michel Côté
    Québec Canada

    • Tom
      11 February 2011 at 3:05 am

      Please post info and specs for handgun that fits in wallet ASAP.

  5. 10 February 2011 at 2:35 am

    Ja! American paranoia reached incredible levels!
    By the time the regulations to the flight of birds!

  6. E T Charles
    10 February 2011 at 1:40 pm

    This is exactly the type of behavior that will cause people that don’t really understand our hobby to place restrictions on us all.

    It was totally irresponsible. The close apporach to the cargo ship while it was underway, the extremely close approach to the Madam Liberty and overflys of traffic.

    I don’t care who tracks him down but someone should and he should be subject to fines, “think about it time” in a very small room.

    I have been both a pilot and RC Modler for many years and both areas have rules and regulations. Our shortcoming is a valid test for stupidity.

  7. Patrick Egan
    11 February 2011 at 8:33 pm

    Great story and interview questions! My hat is off to the reporter.

  8. John Osmond
    13 February 2011 at 7:32 pm

    This FPV flight was bound to set ‘cat amongst the pigeons’ but I find myself thinking that the genie is already well and truly out of the bottle. I am quite certain that the Authorities involved will ‘come down’ heavily and with the US legal reach being as long as it has become, the individual concerned could find themselves in big trouble. But ….. the Genie is out of the bottle. Model builders and enthusiasts will do what they have always done – as PC geeks and hackers have done on the internet. Prohibition will almost certainly be the heavy response, which will make life very difficult for legitimate operators but will have little impact on the enthusiasts who in many cases carry on in blissful ignorance of the law and even the issues the law is there to ‘manage’. Those who wish to do harm with intent, will ignore the law as they have always done. A legislative knee-jerk is not going to help anyone and worse will not help protect society from those who mean it harm. I don’t know what the answer is and I share everyone’s concern that the US and others will ‘react’ as they do to this. I’m wondering about the parallel with hand guns. Thousands are owned in the Us quite legally…. but once in a while individuals go beserk and mow down people in Malls and High Schools. On this issue nothing seems to change! Whatever happens about the regulation of small Unmanned aircraft will doubtless be knee-jerk driven… and will be bad law. We all need to think hard and long about what other responses are possible….

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