For decades, AMA members have enjoyed our hobby under our programming, whether it’s soaring, aerobatic, or FPV. Although AMA provides robust safety programming to enjoy our hobby, there are situations in which operators might be required to comply with additional rules, such as in the Washington, D.C., Special Flight Rules Area (SFRA).
The airspace surrounding Washington, D.C., is more restricted than in any other part of the country.1 Rules put in place after the 9/11 attacks established a “national defense airspace” over the area, resulting in additional limitations when flying. 1
On December 25, 2015, the FAA more than doubled the airspace around the D.C. metro area as a “no-fly zone.” This meant that model aviation enthusiasts could no longer fly within a 30-mile radius of Ronald Regan Washington National Airport, which reached into several Virginia and Maryland counties. For our members who have been flying safely in the area for decades, this was unacceptable and AMA was committed to a finding a solution.
AMA successfully petitioned the FAA to resume model aviation in the SFRA2. During these negotiations, the FAA stipulated that aeromodeling may resume if we comply with all of the SFRA limitations. Restrictions include keeping the model aircraft within line of sight of the operator and “people other than the operator may not be used in lieu of the operator for maintaining visual line of sight.”3
The AMA disagrees with the FAA’s definition of line of sight and is taking both judicial4 and legislative5 action to resolve this conflict. While we address the definition of line of sight, we ask that all members operating in the SFRA keep their models in direct visual line of sight of the operator. Violators in the SFRA are more apt to face stiff fines and criminal penalties.1 Equally concerning, continual violations of the SFRA could result in another complete shutdown of all aeromodeling activities.
In addition to judicial and legislative solutions, AMA is exploring a path with the FAA to grant waivers to AMA flying sites to conduct FPV operations. Additionally, members in the SFRA are allowed to conduct FAA-waivered FPV operations under Part 107. AMA flying sites, in coordination with club leadership, may allow FAA-waivered FPV operations under Part 107. Part 107 operations on AMA flying sites do not compromise a member’s or club’s benefits or standing with the AMA.
We appreciate your cooperation and adherence to the rules while operating within the SFRA.
Q: Is flying FPV permitted within the SFRA?
A: At this time, flying FPV within the SFRA is permitted under FAA’s Part 107, which requires a waiver to operate beyond visual line of sight. The FAA has issued Part 107 waivers to allow one Remote Pilot Certificated operator to serve as the pilot in command, overseeing multiple FPV operations. As an alternative to flying FPV under 107, you may fly FPV within the SFRA outside of the national airspace, such as indoors.
Q: Is flying FPV with a Part 107 considered a commercial operation?
A: Flying FPV under Part 107 can be considered recreational.6 Many misinterpret Part 107 as exclusive to commercial operations, but recreational operations can be conducted under Part 107.
Q: If my club won’t allow me to fly FPV on the flying site, can I fly at home while within the SFRA?
A: At this time, no one is permitted to fly FPV within the SFRA unless they fly out of the national airspace (e.g. indoors) or obtain a waiver under Part 107.
Q: Why is AMA not standing up for FPV operations within the SFRA?
A: AMA is working toward a solution to resume FPV operations, but these efforts take time because of national security concerns and the involvement of multiple agencies and departments. The airspace surrounding Washington, D.C., is more restricted than in any other part of the country.1 The SFRA limitations were established through multiple agencies and departments, including the United States Secret Service, the FAA, the Transportation Security Administration, and Department of Defense. These efforts will take time.
- https://www.faa.gov/uas/getting_started/part_107 https://www.faa.gov/news/updates/media/suas_sfra_fdc_6_2069_a0037_16.pdf