Are Semi-autonomous Flights Allowed by the AMA?

Interesting what arrives in our inbox these days.

Good news if you are considering non profit UA flight in the USA. The AMA seems to be extending an olive branch to hobby fliers giving them access to sanctioned fields to fly platforms.

The following document was brought to our attention by an AMA member, who is eager to fly his Arduino based platform at an AMA field. We could not help notice the language which continues to use the term model aircraft. Technically model aircraft don’t exist any more. Everything that flies without a pilot on board and can be controlled in three axis is an unmanned aircraft.

Manually Controllable Programmed Outdoor Model Flight Operations

1. The manually controllable programmed operation of any model aircraft is limited to the pilot-in-command’s visual contact without enhancement other than by corrective lenses prescribed for the pilot.

2. At all times the pilot-in-command must be able to override any automated system and take over manual control of the model aircraft.

3. Model aircraft must demonstrate a successfully completed, manually-controlled flight prior to any automated flight operation.

4. The flight paths of model aircraft operations shall be limited to the chartered club flying site and approved overfly area.

5. Model aircraft flight must not exceed 60 mph.

6. Turbine powered model aircraft are excluded from these operations.


The AMA did not seem to keen on autonomous flight. Even going so far as to disqualify Maynard Hill’s across the Atlantic world record flight. Now it appears that the AMA has backed off of the hardline stance and is now going to allow for semi-autonomous flight. This is the first that we have heard of this document. We are still waiting (its been over a week)  for official comments on this document from the AMA. However, the minutes show what appears to be a sanctioning of that type of flying, and AMA insurance coverage.

From the Executive Council Meeting 
Muncie IN
July 16, 2011 
Official Minutes

P. Bretsen reported that RFP’s for the member/club program have not been solicited since 2006; the committee will do this and have a response to the Council at their first meeting in 2012 (in time for rechartering). Council previously reviewed a PDF that would allow automated flight operations; there was concern over using this term so the document has been renamed. This lets anyone who reads it understand that manual control of the aircraft will be maintained.”

From the 560 document:

“2. At all times the pilot-in-command must be able to override any automated system and take over manual control of the model aircraft.”

This has long been a stipulation from the sUAS community, but obviously something the hobby community can live with.

America’s Desk Editor, Patrick Egan comments,

“This represents a 180-degree turn around in policy. The AMA expressed reservations about allowing any autonomous aids or flights yet this document clearly states that they do. The amateur UAS community truly has reason to celebrate as they now have a legal venue moving into the future.”

This story is developing…

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