In recent years, the AMA Government Affairs team has been working diligently with Congress and the FAA to advocate for our hobby in the face of new federal regulations and continuing threats at the state-level. We have pushed back on overly burdensome proposals while working cooperatively with policymakers to protect the ability of our members to continue operating safely and responsibly.
To demonstrate the importance of recent years, and to better illustrate the Government Affairs team’s advocacy on your behalf, we have put together a timeline of notable events beginning in the fall of 2018 with the passage of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 to today. During this time, AMA worked with Air Traffic Control to secure altitudes over 400 feet for flying sites in controlled airspace, reduced the safety and knowledge test from a four-hour test to a 10-minute learning experience and thanks to your support, championed over 50,000 comments during the proposed remote ID rule’s comment period.
The timeline below includes a broad overview of some of the highlights of the past couple of years to show how far we have come and the developments we are preparing for in the future.
Congress passed the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018, also known as Public Law 115-254. This legislation included new requirements for all UAS operators, including AMA members, some of which AMA championed. For example, this bill removed the five-mile airport notification ring, which was a burdensome and often misinterpreted mandate. In addition, it more clearly defined community-based organizations (CBOs) and tasked the FAA with formally recognizing CBOs to give organizations like AMA a more prominent role in shaping future regulation. Furthermore, Congress allocated up to $1 million to help support education campaigns like Know Before You Fly, which AMA co-founded.
AMA lead the first stakeholder meeting with the FAA, in conjunction with the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) to advise the FAA on the best approach to move forward with future recreational UAS regulations as directed by Congress. This meeting was a critical step to advocate for our community and protect against unnecessary and burdensome regulations. At the meeting, we discussed safety and knowledge tests for recreational model aircraft and drone operators, the process for recognizing CBOs, and the importance of striking the appropriate balance between innovation and safety. We also began securing Letters of Agreement (LOAs) for AMA clubs and airports to continue operations in controlled airspace.
While summer is typically a slower time in Washington, in summer 2019, the AMA Government Affairs team and Executive Council continued their hard work behind the scenes attending meetings with legislators on Capitol Hill and policymakers at the FAA to discuss ongoing regulatory efforts.
AMA co-chaired an FAA testing panel on the safety and knowledge test for recreational operators. As a result of AMA’s advocacy efforts, the safety and knowledge test was reduced from a four-hour test to a 10-minute learning experience During this time, AMA began working with Air Traffic Control to secure LOAs and ensure operations over 400 feet for clubs with flying sites in controlled airspace. AMA continues to work with the FAA in this process and advocate for our clubs and members.
AMA tracked and monitored 362 proposed state bills that sought to restrict model aircraft and drone operations. By actively engaging state legislators, we were able to stop inconvenient legislation from gaining traction or reshape proposals to be more favorable to our hobby. In addition, AMA met with FAA Administrator Dan Elwell to discuss new threats to our hobby including the FAA’s policy to limit modelers to an arbitrary 400-foot altitude limit in controlled airspace. This meeting was an important milestone in our work to protect AMA members and model aviation as the agency implements Section 349 of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018. AMA formed the AMA Government Advocacy Coalition, a coalition that includes aviation associations, hobby shops, and manufacturers, to protect the model aviation hobby industry from overly burdensome regulations, starting with the fight for a better rule on remote identification of UAS. The coalition provides strength in numbers and shows AMA is not alone in its concerns with remote ID and other potentially oppressive regulations.
The focus of this past spring was primarily the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Remote ID, released by the FAA in late December 2019. The 60-day comment period began on January 2 and ended March 2. The comment period was critical for AMA to advocate heavily for important changes to the proposed rule to protect our hobby for generations to come. As a part of this effort, AMA championed thousands of comments on the remote ID NPRM. In total, the FAA received more than 50,000 comments, many of which were from AMA members and AMA allies. Currently, the FAA is in the process of reviewing those comments. We are told the recreational community had a large impact and identified issues with the rule that will need better solutions.
While some efforts have been altered given the pandemic and its impact on advocacy, this summer AMA continues to secure higher altitudes for clubs and flying fields in controlled airspace up to 2,000 feet above ground level. We continue to work closely with Air Traffic Control and the FAA to ensure our members in controlled airspace can fly safely and responsibly as they have done for many years. AMA is also continuing its work with UAS industry stakeholders, the FAA, and Congress towards a more sensible remote ID solution.