Proactively engaging local governments and stakeholders

The Academy of Model Aeronautics has a long history of safe and responsible model flying for the past eighty years. As many of you know, a number of states, communities, and parks have been introducing and passing legislation banning model aviation or placing unnecessary regulations on our hobby. In an effort to remedy this situation, the AMA has been very active in shaping local legislation to promote our hobby of model aviation. We’ve had numerous victories ranging from stopping a model aviation tax in Nevada to removing unnecessary no fly zones in Florida. In addition to directly advocating to resolve problematic legislation, the AMA is taking a more proactive strategy to resolve problems before legislation is even drafted. Such efforts include building better relationships with local legislators, parks departments, local governing agencies, and other associations across the country.

Here are a few examples of our proactive efforts in the 4QTR of 2016.

In October 2016, the AMA attended the National Recreation and Parks Association (NRPA) Conference in St. Louis MO. This conference allows park directors and local legislators to discuss issues and trends related to community recreation including UAS/model aviation. During the NRPA conference, AMA often found ourselves with crowds of park directors asking questions, and trying to listen in on what was being discussed. We are happy to report that many of the parks across the country currently banning UAS operations expressed a willingness modify their policies or discuss the opening of park flying sites.

The 2016 NRPA conference also provided a look into military base recreation across the country. Many of the conference discussion panels were focused on finding new family friendly hobbies that can be done on military bases and military properties. The military representatives stated that military base hobbies should focus on reducing stress and raise family togetherness, in an effort to promote soldier wellness and increase field readiness. AMA had great conversations with the active and retired military presenters, giving us a chance to highlight our history of operations on military properties and offer to be resource for future possibilities to come. This was a great opportunity to highlight the work that AMA does with disabled veterans and wounded warriors across the country. Many in the military were unaware that the AMA has events designed to help veterans learn to fly, and were thrilled when offered these resources.

Also in October, AMA was invited to participate on the UAS Safety Team composed of industry stakeholders, and placed on the FAA’s Drone Advisory Subcommittee to identify the roles and responsibilities of local governments in creating safety in the airspace.

In November 2016 AMA conducted a face-to-face meeting with the National League of Cities (NLC) in Washington DC. The NLC serves as a resource to city officials, and an advocate for the more than 19,000 local governments. During our meeting we discussed problematic UAS legislation being proposed and passed by local governments. The meeting was positive as the NLC acknowledged AMA’s commitment to education and safety. The NLC did not want to stifle community-based organizations like the AMA, and will make an effort to reflect that in future guidance to local governments.

Shortly after the NLC meeting, we participated at the NLC Summit. This yearly conference provided AMA with the opportunity to interact with thousands of city officials in attendance, answer questions regarding UAS, and offer our 80 years of experience pertaining to model aviation. Attendees to the NLC Summit were eager to discuss challenges and opportunities that their cities are facing, and were encouraged by the educational efforts the AMA is making across the country.

In December 2016 we continued our efforts to proactively engage cities and states who may be considering UAS legislation in the future. For example, Boston MA is considering UAS legislation, but hasn’t drafted an ordinance yet. We have been engaging with the city through email, phone, and a December face-to-face meeting advocating that any legislation not stifle our community of responsible pilots.

In December we also launched UAS training programs and conducted educational efforts with local law enforcement officers.

AMA discussing UAS legislation and enforcement to local law enforcement officers during a presentation in December 2016. Photo by Claire Aldenhuysen.

These efforts are creating some valuable relationships between AMA and local governing bodies. These relationships allow for us to gain access to flying sites across the country, and gives AMA a chance to work on an educational approach to UAS safety rather than a legislative one.

We anticipate 2017 will be another challenging year as we address federal and local legislation related to our hobby. When possible we will continue to be proactive and help shape legislation before it is written. When a bill is proposed, we may ask you to help us engage and advocate for the hobby. Therefore we ask you continue to monitor social media, Model Aviation, this blog, and your emails. Thank you to all of our members for helping us maintain our amazing safety record and let’s work together to keep our hobby alive and thriving.