The “FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012” signed into law as Public Law 112-95 in February 2012, contains a “Special Rule for Model Aircraft”. The language in this provision instructs the FAA Administrator to not enact rules affecting model aircraft activity conducted within the safety programming of a nationwide community-based organization.
Shortly after the bill was passed AMA communicated with the manager of FAA’s Unmanned Aircraft Program Office (now the UAS Integration Office) and expressed our interest in working with the FAA in “establishing the provisions for enacting and complying with the language and spirit of H.R. 658”. And, in follow-up to this communication the AMA made a request through the UAS office staff to meet with the FAA leadership to discuss the model aircraft provision and to work toward establishing the necessary policies and procedures for complying with the new criteria.
The provisions of the new law create several additional mandates for the FAA. AMA recognizes the demands placed on the UAS Integration Office and waited several months before requesting a follow-up meeting with the FAA leadership. With the help of AMA’s political liaison and through the urging of the congressional staff a meeting was finally scheduled for September 5, 2012.
In the September meeting AMA President Bob Brown, Executive Director Dave Mathewson and AMA’s Government and Regulatory Affairs Representative Rich Hanson met with Mr. Jim Williams, Executive Manager of the UAS Integration Office, Bill Cozier and members of the UAS Integration Office staff. AMA asserted its position that PL 112-95 is very specific in its approach to managing model aviation and it expressly exempts MA from regulation provided the activity is conducted within the auspices of a community-based safety program. The AMA provided the FAA with a copy of the AMA Safety Program, asked that it be acknowledged as meeting the congressional intent and that AMA be recognized as a community-based organization as described in the law. The FAA leadership agreed to review AMA’s Safety Program, to take AMA’s position under advisement and to get back to us in 30 days.
On Friday, October 19th, the parties met again via teleconference. This follow-up meeting with Mr. Williams resulted in defining a common path forward for the AMA and the FAA to comply with the directives outlined in Public Law 112-95, and the “Special Rule for Model Aircraft”. This new path appears to be much simpler in development and execution than the former process of standards development. However, as many of our previous efforts have been more circular than direct, it’s difficult to predict either the time frame or even appearance of the final product. The good news to report is we appear to be on a productive track toward a final resolution, but it’s unfortunately difficult to see the end point or the turns that lie ahead.
The outcome of the meeting is certainly viewed as a step in the right direction; however, we are still months away from finalizing and resolving this issue. It will take time to fully develop the path forward and even longer for final review and executive approval. We’re hopeful this process will be completed before the final sUAS rule is published. More importantly, we anticipate this effort will create a platform for maintaining safe aeromodeling operations within the national airspace and assuring the vitality and future of model aviation.
This new approach does not necessarily mean certain aspects of the sUAS rule won’t have an impact on the aeromodeling community. The sUAS Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) remains on the horizon and is still a significant issue. Please ensure everyone you know is aware of the impending regulation. It’s important that those who share our love for this hobby are well-informed and participate in the response to the proposed sUAS rule when the NPRM is published.