We are writing to address some recent confusion as to whether the new federal commercial drone rules (Small Unmanned Aircraft Rule Part 107) impact AMA members and model aircraft enthusiasts who fly for recreational and educational purposes.
First, we would like to reaffirm that Part 107 does not change anything for AMA members. As an AMA member, you are exempt from the additional regulations in Part 107 as long as you are flying for recreational or educational purposes and fully complying with AMA’s safety guidelines. This is what Congress intended when it passed the Special Rule for Model Aircraft in the 2012 FAA Modernization and Reform Act, also known as Section 336. And, as stated in previous communications, this also means you do not need any additional certificate to fly.
Second, for those flying first-person view (FPV), we understand that a recent Forbes article has made the issue of regulatory compliance even more confusing. In that article, the FAA was quoted as saying that as of August 29th, anyone flying FPV needs to obtain a Remote Pilot certificate and follow the provisions of Part 107.
Although this is true for anyone who is not fully complying with Section 336, based on pending litigation with the FAA, we are advising AMA members that flying FPV with a spotter under the Special Rule for Model Aircraft remains acceptable as long as you continue to fly according to the AMA Safety Code and AMA’s safety guidelines for FPV operations in Document 550.
Please rest assured that we have been in ongoing conversations with the FAA about FPV flying and other areas of concern related to the Interpretive Rule. We anticipate that the FAA will clarify the Interpretative Rule by the end of the year, which will help resolve the FPV issue for good.
So, why can AMA members continue flying FPV the same way as before?
As you may also be aware, in August 2014 AMA filed a petition with the U.S. Court of Appeals asking for a judiciary review of the FAA’s interpretation of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft (the Interpretative Rule). As stated in our petition, we believe the FAA’s Interpretive Rule misinterprets the intent of Congress in several areas, including the requirement to remain within visual line of sight of the operator as it relates to the use of FPV goggles. Right now, the court proceedings are on hold as the FAA reviews over 33,000 public comments submitted in response to the Interpretive Rule.
With the court proceedings held in abeyance, enforcement actions based upon the provisions in the Interpretative Rule are also on hold. So, until the FAA completes its review of the public comments, publishes its conclusions and makes any further clarification/revision to the Interpretive Rule, the status quo remains in effect for AMA members. It should be noted, however, that this does not preclude the FAA from taking enforcement action against careless and reckless acts that truly endanger the national airspace.
In the meantime, we encourage all AMA members to continue flying and enjoying our hobby as you have before, following AMA’s safety guidelines and educational programming.
Thank you for your patience as we continue to advocate and protect our hobby of flying model aircraft.