Warning, this is a bit of a rant.
The proposed drone frisbee match to be flown by the Lawfare Blog team in DC has been given a polite rather you did’nt notice by the FAA. The important change to airlaw that everybody seems to have missed is that model aircraft are not really model aircraft any more, they are UAS all of them whatever size. The sorts looked after by the AMA are not for commercial use and to be flown within line of sight. For 99% of users that’s fine, Sunday afternoon on the flying field its what just about every real player in the UA industry has been involved with since childhood. The ability of simple cheap systems to carry cameras has opened a can of worms that the FAA did not see coming.
I might have to ask Patrick to describe in detail the Cracker barrel which was presented in 2007 if memory serves, along with grown up systems as a reason why they had to start paying attention. Operated sensibly with perhaps an AOPA bit of paper in hand and correct insurance why should there in 2012 not be hundreds of mom and pop aerial photography outfits operating within a legal framework?
Most other major aviation authorities around the world did see it coming and reacted, lets not forget Paris a couple of years ago when the FAA did’nt even show up for a very important meeting and it was taken as a snub. Just how much longer can the FAA continue saying they know best and keep feeding the American press with the USA leads the world story??
The people at Parrot are working on a professional system one that thousands of people with training on the AR.Drone 2.0 will feel comfortable using the chaps at the FAA are going to have a busy time letter writing. Or they are going to have to sit down with people from the small end of the industry. The section that will dwarf military sales worldwide soon. I have heard it said that the spend in small and micro unmanned systems already outstrips military budgets worldwide.
I received a call this afternoon from a gentleman named Cliff Sweatte, an aviation inspector for the Federal Aviation Administration, in response to my post of Sunday about the legality of our holding the Lawfare Drone Smackdown in Washington D.C. I had concluded that post by noting that despite my incredulity that the FAA might have a problem with the Smackdown,
we are all law-abiding citizens with due regard for civil aviation authorities. Consequently, if between now and the Smackdown, the FAA asks us to move it outside of the restricted zone, we will grudgingly do so—though it will be an inconvenience to us and will preclude attendance by those Lawfare readers who have expressed interest in dropping by to watch. If we don’t receive any such request, we will assume the FAA at least does not mind our little game.
Well, it turns out that the FAA—albeit very politely—does mind our little game.
Mr. Sweatte informed me that in the FAA’s view, the Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 is considered an unmanned aviation system (UAS), and the FAA considers that there are only three methods of legally operating any kind of UAS in the national airspace. Two clearly do not apply to the Smackdown. The drones we are flying clearly do not count as public UASs. No more are they experimental aircraft. That leaves only model aircraft, as I suggested in my original post. The FAA issued Advisory Circular 91-57 on “Model Aircraft Operating Standards” back in 1981, and Congress defined model aircraft in Section 336 of the recent FAA Reauthorization Act, PL 112-95. There is no lower-end threshold in this definition in terms of either size or range for model aircraft. As long as something flies within line-of-sight, is used for recreational purposes, and is “capable of sustained flight in the atmosphere,” it counts as a model aircraft and is thus banned by this FAA Notice to Airmen.