M U N C I E – The Academy of Model Aeronautics is shocked and outraged by the actions of a 26-year-old Massachusetts man arrested this week on federal charges for his intent to use an RC model airplane reconfigured as a UAV, similar to a military drone, for an explosive-laden attack on the U.S. Capitol and Pentagon. The suspect is not an AMA member nor has he been confirmed as being a model aviation enthusiast.
“When an otherwise safe and wholesome hobby becomes the focal point in a planned terrorist attack, we are as outraged as all citizens,” said AMA Interim President Mark Smith. “Like all Americans, we appreciate the professionalism of the FBI in this case. The AMA’s 143,000 aeromodelers throughout the country pledge to keep a vigilant eye in their communities on any suspicious activity involving RC aircraft.”
Rezwan Ferdaus, a U.S. citizen from Ashland MA, and a physics graduate from Northeastern University, was arrested after lengthy monitoring and a sting operation by the FBI this week. Ferdaus had acquired three RC jets, an F-86 Sabre and two F-4 Phantoms, plus explosives and cell phones wired like IEDs. He kept them in a storage facility to work on. It isn’t known at this time if Ferdaus was able to fly the airplanes or if he had assistance. The public, according to the bureau, was never in danger.
Though Ferdaus’ plan was to convert a commercially available model aircraft into a GPS-guided unmanned aerial vehicle, there is a strong distinction between a hobbyist’s model aircraft and UAVs designed for commercial or military use. “Modelers everywhere are outraged by the literal hijacking of model aircraft for such a nefarious purpose,” said Rich Hanson, AMA’s Government Relations and Regulatory Affairs representative and former Vietnam helicopter pilot. “Our 143,000 members follow a strict safety code, always fly within sight, and remain clear of frangible property or people. When we hear this sort of item and activity labeled as a ‘model’ we are concerned that our recreational and educational hobby is being misrepresented.”
To date, the FBI has not released photos of the actual RC airplanes, only photos such as below of models that are “similar.” “The public will see these photos and think ‘model” when it is the internal configuration, capabilities, and use of the plane that defines it,” continued Hanson.