By now nearly everyone is aware of the incident that occurred on Monday, January 26, 2015, involving a multirotor landing on the White House lawn. The incident occurred at 3 a.m. and involved a government employee who had been drinking. The incident resulted in reaction from many, including President Obama, calling for more regulation.
AMA said in a press release issued on Tuesday, that more regulation is not the answer. In fact, this incident took place inside the Washington D.C. Flight Restricted Zone (FRZ), the most heavily regulated airspace in the country. The FRZ was established in 2009 and, in essence, prevents all forms of flight within the restricted area. In this case—a case that has resulted in calls for more regulation—regulation clearly didn’t work.
In late December, AMA, in concert with the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International and the Small UAV Coalition, launched the Know Before You Fly campaign (www.knowbeforeyoufly.org). The initiative is fully supported by the FAA which has lent its name to the effort.
The goal of the campaign is simple. AMA believes, as do most in the model aviation community, that these new enthusiasts want to operate safely and responsibly; it’s simply that nobody has offered guidance on how to do that. Know Before You Fly will partner with other industry associations, manufacturers, distributors, and retailers to get this needed education and training material into the hands of the end users.
AMA believes that a much better approach to managing the community is through education, not regulation. AMA has always believed that the best, and perhaps the only, way to successfully manage the recreational community is through a community-based set of safety guidelines and the combined efforts of the FAA and AMA.
We understand the potential for bad people using any good technology for bad things. We do not support the use of the technology outside of AMA guidelines. We do believe, however, that flown within the envelope of AMA’s safety programming, this new technology is as safe, or safer, than any other modeling discipline in which our members participate.
If the solution was to simply ban the technology, or even just disallow it under AMA programming, it’s unlikely that it would have any significant impact. If the goal is to thwart a nefarious attempt by someone using this technology, no rule or regulation will prevent that. The point is that it’s not the technology, it’s how the technology is used.
AMA has taken the approach we have because we believe that it’s much better to reach out and try to help this new community instead of pretending it doesn’t exist.
If something bad happens, the public isn’t going to ask whether it was caused by an AMA member or not. We’ll all be painted with the same brush. This technology isn’t going away, whether or not the FAA or the AMA prohibits it. It’s out there and growing exponentially. Manufacturers, distributors, and retailers have indicated that they are not going to stop selling product.
At this point, there is nothing the government can do to manage the activity. The FAA doesn’t have the time, money, or resources to try to manage the tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of modelers who have been attracted to this new technology. We believe that everyone—the FAA, AMA, AMA members, modelers, and the general public—would be better served if AMA and other similar organizations helped manage this community, ensuring some level of safety and responsibility that is lacking in a minority out there now.
We support the FAA in its mission to ensure aviation safety, and other federal agencies to ensure national security. We have never wavered from that position. However, we are firm in our belief that a proactive approach to mitigating concerns through education will serve everyone better in the long run.