President signs FAA bill, includes protection for model aviation

February 2012, Congress passed the first FAA Reauthorization bill in more than four years. The Bill included a special provision for model aircraft protecting it from FAA regulations.

Signed February 14, 2012 by President Obama, the special provision in the Bill recognizes community-based safety programming as an effective means of managing the modeling activity. The model aircraft section establishes minimum criteria for safe aeromodeling operations and specifically directs the FAA to not enact rules for modeling activity conducted within the safety programming of a nationwide community-based organization.

The culmination of AMA’s efforts over the past four years in achieving this recognition and obtaining the legislative safeguard is a great accomplishment for the aeromodeling community. This recognition will help with our continuing efforts with the FAA to improve safety in the national airspace.

Recognition is also due to the tens of thousands of AMA members who went the extra mile by writing their congressional leaders, making phone calls, and supporting the AMA with donations used for this campaign. Continue to monitor for further details.

You can read the Special Rule for Model Aircraft here.


  1. A BIG thank you to all those who helped getting the special provision into this law!

  2. This is a very possitive step and i agree that we should not let up on our commitment to keep our hobby strong and safe. I do believe that we should realize that we as a group need to always work together and not get relaxed in our efforts, ever. I don’t believe that many of us ever saw this coming our maybe did not realize how this could, or could have, effected our hobby. We just cannot ever become complacent in what we love and enjoy.
    A really big thanks to all that our on the front lines and behind the scenes at AMA, and to all of us that have and continue to put forth the effort to help support and continue our great hobby. i would also like to give a really big Thanks to the representitives that have worked on these issues and continue to work on these issues, and let them know how much I (we) appreciate their efforts. I hope we all continue to work together to keep it fun, safe and enjoyable for all.

  3. Oh no, wait it’s there. Seems to me the FAA will just ignore the term “model airplane” and call everyting an RPV or APV, thus negating anything signed into law.

  4. I entered the following comment in the LA Times bog, as a comment to there out-of-reality piece on 1/26/2012: LAPD cracks down on drone aircraft use by real estate agents.

    John Darbo
    The LA Times should be ashamed of their coverage of “Drones”, as it is full of innuendo, rumor and outright falsehoods.

    When this article was written, the FAA had no “rules” restricting small radio controlled platforms such as pictured and used by aerial survey/photo organizations. The only guidance from the FAA is an Advisory Circular(Policy, not rule or law) that recommends a maximum altitude of 400 feet above ground. Since FAA rules restrict an airplane (not helicopters) to a minimum altitude of 500 above ground, there is a built-in 100 foot buffer designed into the guidance. Helicopters are restricted to “…an altitude from which a safe landing can be made…”) and that is usually above 500 feed above ground, except in special operational circumstances.

    The LAPD has absolutely no jurisdiction in the airspace above the City to restrict the safe operations of these airborne platforms, and they are especially off-target to criticize the real estate agencies who are not the “operators” of the platforms.

    Fortunately, as of February 14th, via the FAA Re-authorization Billl, signed by the President, it is now “public law” (Federal) that special provisions recognizes community-based safety programming (See AMA hyperlink below) as an effective means of managing the modeling activity. The model aircraft section establishes minimum criteria for safe aeromodeling operations and specifically directs the FAA to not enact rules for modeling activity conducted within the safety programming of a nationwide community-based organization.

    Of course, the politics of LA City and County are rife with regal pressure for “privacy” and of course the privacy of these citizens should be protected. To do so does must not infringe on the rights of others, or restrict a legitimate business practice when undertaken in a business like manner in conformance to “…community-based safety programming…”, such as the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA).

    1. John’s comments are particularly insightful given the simple fact that it was the LAPD’s nutty / failed attempt to do a dog and pony show for the media with their UAV back in 2006 or so that forced the hand of the FAA to shut down the entire NAS and below to such operations.

      God help us if the LAPD is the driving force behind any of this. There are some terrific people out there in law enforcement and public safety, a few in Miami Dade County come to mind, but as usual, it’s the goofballs who get the press.


  5. I agree with most of what you have said, but believe that the commercial use of radio controlled models is not protected by the FAA Reathorization bill. That LA operator of R/C helicopters is conduction a commercial enterprise, which is by definition, not recreational, and is outside the scope of AMA ‘community based’ regulation. The AMA insurance excludes commercial uses of our aircraft as protected aero-modeling activities. Whether LAPD can regulate commercial activity in the airspace above the city or not is not something I can comment on, but suggest that the floor of federal airspace at 500 feet AGL, implies control below that level by other authorities. What comes immediately to mind are regulations on structures and activities in zoning laws. My community has a specific prohibition in its noise ordinance concerning RC aircraft engines. I’m sure there are other regulations governing that space above ground, but below FAA control at 500 feet. I think I remember reading somewhere that a homeowner can reasonably expect to use the airspace above his home or property, but not infinitely upward. My recollection is that someone tried to sue an airline for traveling over his house, claiming a trespass. He lost. The point is, I think, that airspace over the ground, and under 500 feet isn’t ‘unregulated’.

    1. Lloyd, You are absolutely correct. The model aircraft provisions in the FAA reauthorization bill are not applicable to the commercial use of UAS, radio controlled or otherwise. And, AMA has no intention of extending its safety program to include these platforms.

      Rich Hanson
      AMA Government and REgulatory Affairs

  6. Big thanks to the AMA for your continued hard work and to our elected officials for being on the right side of this issue.

  7. And where do we find a copy of this bill (ID, number) signed by the president ?

  8. This just shows when we as a group get involved, great things can happen. As a safety professional, we as a whole can either make or break a our hobby/sport. Thanks AMA and all the members who wrote to their congressional people. Many more years of happy and safe flying.

  9. Lloyd, it is up to the state, county or city to make laws, or not concerning model aircraft & UAV’s flying under 500′. Not the LAPD, it would only be their job to enforce those laws, if any. Where I live P.G, county, Md., they have made it illegal to fly any powered model in their parks. I am unaware of any laws on UAV’s here, but I’m sure they will make some, if someone complains. The only places to fly models here is at AMA fields unless you own a lot of cleared land.

  10. How about putting the link to the bill itself in a more prominent place in the future. This will be of particular interest when the FAA starts publidshing its ruling.

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