The Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA), as the largest advocacy group for recreational pilots of both drones and other model aircraft, has been working with the FAA to give recreational fliers a voice. In a recent letter to members, the AMA clarified the recent federal register notice announcing changes to regulations. The changes are a result of the repeal of Section 336, which protected model aircraft – including drones – from any new regulation.
The changes include a temporary ban for recreational fliers in restricted airspace around airports: recreational fliers may only fly at designated fields for this purpose, until the FAA can accomodate recreational flyers in the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) program. This represents a major change for recreational pilots and has been met with concern by the recreational drone community.
Additonally, future changes will include an online knowledge test required for recreational operators.
The following is an excerpt from the AMA’s statement to members:
Earlier today, the FAA issued a notice that provides temporary guidance for recreational fliers. AMA is already working with the FAA to make accommodations for our members, and we wanted to let you know what to expect.
First, we’ll share a bit of background. Throughout the past few years, thousands of new recreational drone users and more than 400,000 new commercial drone operators have entered the airspace. Late last year, Congress passed and President Donald Trump signed into law the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018. This law gives the FAA more authority to address the surge of new users and changing airspace. Part of the law includes Section 349, which outlines eight statutory requirements for the recreational operation of all unmanned aircraft, including all drone and model aircraft hobbyists. The FAA is tasked with creating new rules in accordance with this law.
The guidance the FAA issued today is one step in a long process to create and implement the new rules for recreational fliers. It’s important to note that at this stage in the process, the guidance does not constitute official rules and it’s not legally binding.
Here’s what you can expect: AMA is working with the FAA to accommodate our diverse, safe, and responsible community with future regulations. Together, we are working to ease the burden of compliance with the guidance issued today and, eventually, with the new rules. We regularly engage the FAA, including multiple meetings yesterday, to discuss the details of these solutions.
As a next step, we will begin working with AMA members and clubs located near airports to establish letters of agreement. These letters of agreement will formalize the special accommodations for our community and allow AMA members to continue flying at these fixed flying sites without interruption.
AMA members have flown safely in our nation’s skies for decades, and the FAA recognizes that; however, we are entering a new era of unmanned aviation and with that come changes. We are doing everything we can to ensure that this transition is smooth, and our hobby is protected.
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.
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