In true government fashion, the FAA extended the comment period for their Interpretation of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft at the eleventh hour on Thursday. Originally set to expire on July 25, the new deadline is September 23.
According to an agency statement, the extension was granted at the request of the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) which was submitted on July 16th.
The comment period began on June 25 and was originally supposed to last for 30 days. At the halfway point, Forbes contributor Greg McNeal observed that less than 3,ooo comments had been posted on the FAA’s message board – an alarmingly low number considering the size of drone-centric communities like DIYDrones which easily exceed 100,000 pairs of eyeballs.
Right around the same time as Mr. McNeal’s post, the AMA submitted their request… which was met with deafening silence until the clock had nearly run out.
The FAA was stuck: If they didn’t grant the extension, the number of comments wouldn’t reflect a successful comment period and the whole thing could be deemed a failure. But if the extension was granted, they would be feeding the trolls another example of the administration’s inability to show force and/or meet a deadline.
In any case, it is for the best the FAA did grant the extension because as soon as they did:
2) The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a technology think tank out of Washington, D.C., submitted a comments directly to the chief counsel of the FAA outlining the dangers of the Special Rule saying, “the FAA should give hobbyists and inventors room to thrive and not limit them with overbearing restrictions.”
3) 30 professors submitted a letter to the FAA on Friday saying the Special Rule for Model Aircraft would “eliminate the ability of researchers to use small, unmanned aircraft on low-altitude flights over private property.” Spearheaded by Paul Voss of Smith College, professors from Harvard, Stanford, Boston University, University of Michigan and University of Wisconsin, among others, lent their voices to the letter which calls for the FAA to do away with the arbitrary and overbroad regulatory interpretation of UAS operation.
“Under the FAA model aircraft rules, a 10-year-old hobbyist can freely fly model aircraft for recreation, while our nation’s scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs are prohibited from using the same technology in the same types of environments,” the letter said.
For more on the FAA’s uphill battle regarding drone regulations, check out Keeping Up With the FAA.
Alan is serial entrepreneur, active angel investor, and a drone enthusiast. He co-founded DRONELIFE.com to address the emerging commercial market for drones and drone technology. Prior to DRONELIFE.com, Alan co-founded Where.com, ThinkingScreen Media, and Nurse.com. Recently, Alan has co-founded Crowditz.com, a leader in Equity Crowdfunding Data, Analytics, and Insights. Alan can be reached at alan(at)dronelife.com