FAA Asserts Regulatory Authority Over RC Model Aircraft - Drones
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Posted in Drone News, Drone Videos - RC Videos

FAA Asserts Regulatory Authority Over RC Model Aircraft – Drones

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a statement on 23 June 2014, titled "FAA Offers Guidance to Model Aircraft Operators." The subtitle was definitely less gentle, stating that the "Agency issues interpretation of 2012 Reauthorization Law, restates authority to take enforcement action against hazardous operations."

The motivation for the action, according to the FAA, was due to "recent incidents involving the reckless use of unmanned model aircraft near airports and involving large crowds of people."

That grammar is wrong. It should say, "most recent incidents." That's because anybody paying attention knows that reckless use of unmanned model aircraft has been going on quite a lot and the FAA only now, liking a sleeping giant, is waking up to the fact.

Friends, do not misunderstand what I just wrote. I fly RC and it was my start in aviation at 14 years old. But any rational person could not help but conclude, from the evidence easily available on YouTube alone, that there are some in the USA who fly RC airplanes, helicopters and multicopters in a reckless manner, endangering themselves, others, and the hobby.

The vast majority of RC hobbyists are fun loving, responsible, community oriented and very generous with their time and knowledge (I can think of Flite Test as a quick and excellent example). It is a small percentage that are bad actors, but the size of that group is, unfortunately, growing.

Back to the FAA. Sadly, they are continuing what seems to me to be a little communication bipolar disorder. On the one hand, they re-assert the agency's authority over hobby use of RC with statements like "Compliance with these rules for model aircraft operators has been required since the Act was signed on February 14, 2012, and the explanation provided today does not change that fact."

On the other hand, the published guidance says "Hobby or recreational flying doesn't require FAA approval but you must follow safety guidelines."

Perhaps the most important take away from today's FAA announcement is the re-statement of the banned activities when using RC aircraft.

Drum roll please…

FAA RC Model Radio Control Aircraft Infographic Rules Regulations Drones

FAA RC Model Radio Control Aircraft Infographic Rules Regulations Drones Federal Aviation Administration

Don't fly near manned aircraft
Don't fly beyond line of sight of the operator
Don't fly an aircraft weighing more than 55 lbs unless it's certified by an aeromodeling community-based organization
Don't fly contrary to your aeromodeling community-based safety guidelines
Don't fly model aircraft for payment or commercial purposes

By the way, did you know the FAA wants you to contact any airport or control tower within 5 miles of wherever you plan to fly any RC aircraft? They don't say if those are statute or nautical miles, just that you are supposed to get in touch and let them know before you fly.

What do you think?


  • Mike Meyer

    I think I amused the local airport when I contacted them about flying micro heli’s. Indoors. But I lived about a mile from the control tower, so…

    • Editor

      Thanks for taking the time to comment Mike. Pretty funny too. :)

      • Scott Walters

        I called the Sarasota, FL. tower and left a message, My RC plane with autopilot(APM2.5) lost manual control and is headed straight toward the airport. Witch was less than 3 miles away. It only made it a mile before landing on a commercial greenhouse. On board video on you tube.

        • Editor

          Did the tower call back? If so, what did they say? How damaged was your plane when you found it?