Section 336 is the law that was cited for repeal of mandatory drone registration; a Federal Appeals Court agreed with plaintiff John Taylor that the FAA could not require recreational drones to register. But in response to a recent spate of bad publicity for the drone industry, some commercial operators have called for stricter regulations – and enforcement actions – for recreational drones. Yesterday, the Commercial Drone Alliance, issued a statement calling for the replacement of Section 336 with language that will allow the FAA to regulate recreational drones in “a common sense way.”
As the recreational drone community’s primary advocates, the AMA has been quick to defend their operators. Chad Budreau, Public Relations & Government Affairs Director for the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA), today issued the following statement in response to the Commercial Drone Alliance’s call for the repeal of Section 336 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012:
“AMA’s number one priority is the safety of our nation’s skies. Through Section 336, AMA safely manages 200,000 members – as the organization has done for more than eighty years – freeing up scarce FAA resources to advance commercial drone regulations and other priorities. At the same time, AMA lends its safety expertise to the broader drone community through efforts such as Know Before You Fly.
“Even with AMA managing a portion of the recreational community and funding broader educational efforts, the FAA is still under-resourced to handle the growing surge in commercial drones, Part 107 waiver requests and future rulemakings. Eliminating Section 336 will exacerbate the demand on the agency’s resources, which may have implications for the commercial drone industry and the safety of our skies. Public-private partnerships with experienced community-based organizations like AMA, which are facilitated by Section 336, can be helpful in alleviating strain on the FAA and enhance safety.
“Furthermore, model aviation enthusiasts have been the cradle of innovation for both the manned and unmanned communities for decades. Many mistakenly believe drones are a recent innovation. To the contrary – the AMA community has helped to develop and advance the platform since the 1930s. Even today, as drone technology continues to improve, modelers are dreaming up new ways to apply and use this technology every day. Imagine a world where a young Steve Jobs or Henry Ford were restricted from tinkering in their garage. A repeal of Section 336 would be a devastating blow to innovation.
“We recognize some tweaks to Section 336 may be needed to clarify who the provision does and does not cover. We also recognize that remote identification requirements make sense at an appropriate threshold of weight and capability, such as for more sophisticated drones. That’s why we are actively working with Congress, the manned aviation community and the UAS industry on policy solutions to these challenges within the framework of Section 336.
“While we support commercial drone endeavors, Congress should not allow for-profit companies to dictate legislation abolishing a segment of the hobby with a strong, eighty-plus year safety record. We need to advance drone deliveries in such a way that manned aircraft, commercial drone operators and hobbyists all operate safely and harmoniously together, as manned aviation and model aviation have done for decades. No one group has a greater claim to the nation’s airspace than any other.”
The argument over Section 336 – the argument over recreational operators and commercial operators, categories which often overlap and blur – will continue as the newest FAA Authorization act is discussed in Congress. An FAA Reauthorization extension was scheduled to expire, but another extension was included in the recently passed spending bill signed by President Trump. Lawmakers now have until the end of September 2018 to pass a new FAA Authorization package.
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.