Published On: Thu, Jan 29th, 2015

Working Together: Unmanned Aircraft Fanatics and the FAA

For years, enthusiasts have wanted lax regulation concerning unmanned aircraft. It’s understandable. You have a hobby. The government restricts you. You want the government to back down. Now, many people are getting their wish.

What The FAA Is Doing

The Federal Aviation Administration oversees the American civil aviation industry. In simple terms, this means regulating air travel. As an agency of the U.S. Department of Transportation, the FAA has the authority to regulate and control all aircraft. But, it doesn’t control toys.

And here is where the intersection of drones and model airplanes crosses. Many enthusiasts regard drones as toys that shouldn’t be subject to regulatory control. Others view drones as not being regulated enough.

Recently, a spokesperson from the FAA said the agency will propose new rules by the end of the year that will allow for commercial use of drones. However, some have speculated that operators will need a pilot’s license to operate them.

Being licensed would mean that these aircraft would move out of the realm of a simple hobby and into the realm of amateur and professional piloting.

As it stands, current rules governing drones fall under the 1981 rules for flying model airplanes. Essentially, pilots don’t need a pilot’s license, because it’s a hobby plane. Pilots are instructed not to fly close to buildings, other people or moving vehicles that are unprotected, respect privacy, and not to “play chicken” with full-sized airplanes.


Various types of classifications exist for drones, including:

  • Civil UAS
  • Public UAS and;
  • Model Aircraft

Civil UAS is a new classification scheme designed as a sort of entry-level license for unmanned aircraft. It’s an experimental certificate program with regulation precluding carrying people or cargo for compensation or hire. This is likely where regulation will start.

Public UAS is a license issued to public entities like law enforcement, border patrol, firefighting, disaster relief, search and rescue, military, and other government agencies. This is not for civilians, but it is another classification by the FAA that helps classify drone usage.

Finally model aircraft classification doesn’t carry regulatory or licensing requirements, as long as the aircraft stays under 400 feet, is within sight of the operator, and doesn’t endanger other people. The aircraft must also not engager the safety of the national airspace system either.

More Rules?

WMCH drone photo by Clément Bucco-Lechat via wikimedia commons

WMCH drone photo by Clément Bucco-Lechat via wikimedia commons

While some are calling for more lax regulation, some drone hobbyists are calling for more. Why? Because they want more guidance on what’s expected of them, where they can and cannot fly, and safety protocols for drones.

Some see this as a way to build a sort of minimum governmental standardization process for qualifying drone pilots. In the absence of rules, some fear that people will make up their own, even converting some drones into flying weapons.

Such fears are not warranted, according to skeptics. Most drones that are sold for commercial use can only fly for a maximum of 30 minutes, can’t carry any serious cargo (including weapons), and are pretty fragile.

Buying Your Own And Enjoying It

If you’re a hobbyist who has only recently become interested in drone aircraft, you should check out these drone reviews before making a purchase. There’s a lot to know about flying model drones, and some safety procedures that are considered “best practices” by those who are seasoned pilots.

First, it’s important to choose an aircraft that suits your level of skill and ability. If you’re just starting out, you’ll want something simple to operate, probably with 4 different propeller blades, and something with the ability to modify with a propeller cover (just in case you bump into something).

There’s also the matter of safety training. While there is no official safety training for drones, there are plenty of videos online teaching you basic drone safety. You’ll want to review them, the warnings from the manufacturer of the aircraft, and practice in an area that’s not populated.

If you live in the country, this is easy – fly in a field in your back yard or in the middle of the woods where no one else is.

If you live in a densely-populated area, things get trickier. You’ll probably want to make friends with someone out in the country, or try flying the drone around your house until your skill improves.

Whatever your strategy, you should be overly cautious when flying. Drones do have the potential to seriously injure people and property, especially when they fall from a height of 100 to 400 feet.

Guest Author :

Eric Markov is a drone enthusiast and RC builder. He has been flying model aircraft for the past 5 years. He is currently developing advanced long range models and advancing FPV quality. He also enjoys sharing his experiences online.

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