Academy of Model Aeronautics Expresses Concern Over “Drone” Incident at JFK

Date: March 6, 2013

Contact: Rich Hanson

(888) 899-3548

Members of the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA), the world’s largest recreational model aviation association with headquarters in Muncie, Indiana, expressed concern over the report by an Alitalia pilot of a drone sighting over Long Island while on approach to JFK International Airport. According to reports, the pilot stated that he observed a multi rotor drone hovering at 1,500 feet, 4 or 5 miles southeast of the airport.


“Although there is no reason to conclude that an AMA member, or even a recreational hobby enthusiast, was involved, AMA is working to assist in identifying the operator of the unmanned aircraft system (UAS),” said AMA president Bob Brown.


AMA members operate under strict safety guidelines that have served as the standard for model aviation safety for more than 75 years. Through AMA’s safety programming, common sense, and a responsible approach to model aircraft operations, the aeromodeling community has achieved a superior safety record, one that meets or exceeds that of any other form of aviation.


AMA standards require that model aircraft not interfere with and remain well clear of manned aircraft and prohibit members from acting in a careless or reckless manner that would endanger the life or property of others. Hovering, from what all indications appears to be, a larger domestic UAS near the approach path to one of the country’s busiest airports is neither safe nor responsible, is a clear violation of AMA’s safety programming, and AMA does not condone the actions of the person or people involved.

For more information, contact Rich Hanson, AMA’s Government and Regulatory Affairs Representative at or call (888) 899-3548.

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15 Responses to Academy of Model Aeronautics Expresses Concern Over “Drone” Incident at JFK

  1. If a pilot of that plane could see the UAS then it was probably rather large in size otherwise most drones are rather small and so it had to be a home made job someone was testing and since it was near an airport it could not have been an AMA member.

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  2. We were just discussing the problem of how a few could ruin it for all of us. Our District VII VP, Tim Jesky, came to our club meeting this week and this was a prime topic. We said that we must all be vigilant and try to guide those who would operate RC craft in an irresponsible manner. All our AMA members are good, but there are many that are not, and we must try to educate those that are not.

    Dave Bacon Secretary, Fly’n Wolverines RC

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    • David,

      Respectfully I must disagree. When I was a club safety office we had one flyer at our field(who shall remain nameless) who had an utter disregard for the field rules as well as the AMA safety guidelines, yet was a current active AMA member.


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  3. I suggest that we stop assuming that AMA members, or non-members who fly model aircraft, are all safety-conscious, responsible citizens. We have all seen many instances of irresponsible behavior by flyers, whether of airplanes or copters, and I can well imagine that there are some who take their irresponsibility to much greater levels. With the proliferation of video devices it’s only a matter of time before some model enthusiasts do serious damage to people’s privacy or even cause serious hazard to commercial aviation. I’m glad to see that the AMA is taking this particular incident seriously.

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  4. I fly muti rotor crafts and to get to that hight you would have such a short window of time do to battery capacity that it wouldnt have enough left to get back more likly to crash so to me. I find this a bit hard to belive kinda sounds like all the assault rifle hype to me I dont know who to belive anymore but I hope that people will respect our hobby much better than that

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  5. I think this is a good response from the AMA. However I think the AMA needs to go further and issue a ban on all FPV flying. I feel FPV flying is not a part of Model Aviation and poses a significant safety hazard along with a privacy concern.

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    • This is just a tad harsh, and so-called \’privacy concerns\’ are a nonsense diversionary tactic… FPV is just as much a part of our hobby as electrics, gliders, helicopters, and jets (and I fly all of these). I do feel that many in the FPV community grossly underestimate the risks of BVLOS flying. Regulations go hand-in-hand with good judgement and responsibility. If we don\’t agree upon a good set of operating rules that we can all live with, I\’m certain that ignorant, reactionary groups from the outside will impose draconian restrictions that will smother all of us. I\’m relatively sure that nobody here wants that…

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  6. I know if a quad was so close as reported the air turbulence would be much for the quad and would have knocked it out of the air. this had to be a GOV. drone or a police drone not a RC Quad.

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    • I’d have to agree with several people here that think this is probably not an average hobbyist aircraft. Not saying that this is the case, but I’ve seen local PD’s and homeland security groups getting some very high dollar small UAVs (quads)for surveillance and recue work then showing them off at shows. I think it’s a great idea, but I wonder if anyone has told them that there are rules to flying these over populated areas or near airports.

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  7. Whoever was flying the quad was 1100 feet above the AMA max ceiling. Let the feds find him and bust him. Imo, its not the AMA’s job to help the government. Let them police the skies. Plus, it Seems that no one knows who or where it came from., and, the pilot might not be a AMA member.

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  8. To see a quad copter, even at the final approach speed of an airliner, it must have been fairly large unless the pilot virtually flew through it. Large quads are mainly the domain of filming crews and the military/police. There are a lot of defense contractors etc on Long Island and not so many filming crews . . . so the search might logically start there.

    Being an AMA member is certainly no guarantee of ultimate safety; but on average we\\\’re way safer than what happens out there in the wilds of “rogue” pilot-land.

    The thousands of mini quads and foamy UAVs out there are likely not a threat beyond the risk of the millions of birds up in the air everyday. RC craft should never be flown within miles of an airport—period! Additionally, there are certainly a lot of cool-looking–but ultimately boneheaded and potentially dangerous–videos of people flying FPV thousands of feet up in airspace legally ceded to full size aircraft. “It’ll probably be alright” is ok when you’re on the ground, but air crews and travelers will have a different level of personal investment in this risk assessment.

    Keep ‘em either pretty low where full size planes aren’t, or if you want to pop up a ways for a view, stay pretty near so you’ve got a chance of knowing if the airspace is being used—and always have a spotter. There’s a lot of video out there of UAVs with no chance of knowing what traffic may be about. For those who haven’t flown a small plane like a Cessna; the visibility from inside the cockpit sucks—the top of the dash sits at least a foot higher than in your car (don’t forget that if you’re climbing the view ahead will be almost non-existent—even flying level, you’re not likely to see anything a bit below your level under a thousand feet out as you look over the dash and cowl), you have wings blocking a large chunk of sky, you can’t lean out to look down much, etc (we’re spoiled by our camera FPV setups, even the fixed ones–don’t assume the full scale pilot has a decent view and depend on them to evade). Again most hobby FPV setups are slow, speed, lightweight craft equivalent to the threat that been present since man first started to fly into our feathered friends. The AMA, in with consultation of the FAA, has evolved guidelines (weight and speed) for this that purposely limits our craft to an accepted baseline risk.

    The hazard steps way up when you start looking at larger than bird-sized, heavy craft–again these are mostly the purview of commercial, law enforcement and military interests. These are what the FAA, so far, seems most interested in regulating—let’s keep it that way by flying safe and small-medium sized craft (besides the tech is just getting better and smaller–so today\\\’s big AP rig may look like a bloated dino in a year or two).

    On the media whipped public angst about drones and privacy (let alone idiot politicians frothing about US citizens being subject to Hellfire missile strikes in our own fair land), I would just remind people that a few short years ago there was similar hand wringing about cameras being in cell phones/PDAs and how it was something that might need to be legislated or resisted by business enterprise interests. Look around your office and count your colleagues; you likely also just counted the total of cameras in the room (disallowing laptops, security cams, etc)—this has not created the collapse of civilization, if anything we’re likely safer for this democratization of information. A century before the current hand wringing it was that un-chaperoned telephone use would cause the collapse of civilization, etc.

    Bottom line is that the FPV/UAV components are dirt cheap, easily available and the genie is way out of the bottle. If people think these components aren\\\’t available, and manufactured and sold in China, the Middle East and numerous other places around the world, then they haven\\\’t done a 2 minute internet search.

    The USA is the pre-eminent military power in the world and that power is moving rapidly towards UAVs (a year or two ago the number of UAV pilots trained by the USAF overtook the number of regular pilots they trained). We have these tools for our defense partly because we have free, innovative society with a farm league of dedicated hobbyists who often go on to related professional fields in aviation, avionics, control programming, etc.–a major clampdown on this front would not only be near impossible, but UAV developments would still continue around the world. I\\\’m not saying that if politicians over react the law of unintended consequences will rear up and in a couple decades we\\\’ll suddenly find ourselves under attack by locust-like hordes of Chinese nano drones . . . but we’d probably be less safe and less innovative. Let’s not forget that these UAVs have tremendous non-military, commercial potential for reducing pesticide use (both through application and pest and ground monitoring), search and rescue, resource prospecting and a thousand other things.

    Fly safe and fly fun—but always fly smart.

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  9. As a pilot and previous AMA member I can say with little doubt that at 4-5 miles out on final you will be well above 1500′. Pattern altitude is 1000′ above the runway. And patern is within 1/4 – 3/4 mile of the runway. At 4 miles out the pilot is most likely 3000′ above and could not have seen anything small that a modeler would be flying. This sounds like it was LEO with a larger APV or other platform. The AMA MUST take a stand and not assume using common sense instead that it was outside of the modeling community. Very unfortunate that the AMA is bending over to the FAA in such a manner, just to play the thick glasses kid in the FAA sandbox.

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