We now know that the release of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for the small Unmanned Aircraft Systems rule has officially slipped to ‘Spring 2012’. However, there’s still a chance we may see the NPRM sooner rather than later and it wouldn’t be too surprising to see the proposed rule as early as February or March.
Here’s what we know so far:
- FAA has determine the need to regulate model aircraft (MA) activity and are including operating criteria for MA in the upcoming small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) rule.
- Though the exact content of the rule is not yet known due to the ex parte requirement of the rulemaking process, we have been told the MA criteria will be very restrictive.
- The proposed rule will specify when, where and how model aircraft fly and will most likely include significant restrictions on altitude, speed, and operations near airports.
- The rule will also have a provision allowing AMA to develop its own set of ‘standards’ that if accepted and adopted by the FAA can be used as an alternative means of complying with the sUAS regulation, if and when it’s implemented.
- AMA currently has a workgroup in place that is working with FAA’s Unmanned Aircraft Program Office (UAPO) in developing a set of standards that, with greater attention to safety, will hopefully allow modelers to continue to operate and enjoy the hobby in much the same way as they do today. Unfortunately, we are still a long ways away from finalizing the content and being able to speak to the specifics of the MA standards.
- AMA is timing its standards development process so as to have a set of MA standards accepted and adopted by the FAA by the time the sUAS rule becomes regulation in mid to late 2013.
We know that the release of the sUAS Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is imminent, but until the proposed rule is published and the actual content is known we’re unable to isolate and speak to the specific issues. We’re in an unfortunate wait and see mode. Nevertheless, this is still a very dynamic situation and we need to remain vigilant and attentive to the issues as things evolve. Once the NPRM is released, it’s extremely important that each and every modeler and anyone with an interest in model aviation participate in the public comment process. The most current information on the NPRM and the proposed rule can be found on this webpage, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AMAGov and on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/AMAGov.