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FAA Poised to Include Limitations on Hobbyist UAVs


The FAA is proposing to amend its regulations to adopt specific rules for the operation of small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in the National Airspace System (NAS). These changes would address the classification of UAS, certification of UAS pilots and visual observers, registration of UAS, approval of UAS operations, and UAS operational limits. The NPRM also proposes regulations for all UAS, including operating standards for model aircraft and low performance (e.g., toy) operations, to increase the safety and efficiency of the NAS. The FAA and UAS community lack sufficient formal safety data regarding unmanned operations to support granting traditional, routine access to the NAS. This proposed rule would result in the regular collection of safety data from the user community and help the FAA develop new regulations and expand UAS access to the NAS.

Yes, you read that right: the NPRM is going to propose operating standards for model aircraft and toy operations, in addition to commercial use of UAS. It will be interesting to see how the FAA positions these new regulations in light of the Congressional carve-out for hobbyists. In 2012, Congress added the following language to Section 336 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act:

Notwithstanding any other provision of law relating to the incorporation of unmanned aircraft systems into Federal Aviation Administration plans and policies, including this subtitle, the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration may not promulgate any rule or regulation regarding a model aircraft, or an aircraft being developed as a model aircraft . . . .

That statute also goes on to state that “nothing in this section shall be construed to limit the authority of the Administrator to pursue enforcement action against persons operating model aircraft who endanger the safety of the national airspace system.” It was on this basis that the FAA stated that it will apply the prohibition against “careless or reckless operation of an aircraft under 14 C.F.R. § 91.13 to model aircraft and would bring civil penalty actions against unsafe operators.

It is possible that the reference to “standards for model aircraft” could be a system to create additional voluntary standards and not formal regulatory requirements. On the other hand, the summary also makes ominous reference to a lack of information that would warrant “traditional, routine access to the NAS,” implying that something more drastic is possible. Whichever it is, the new language makes clear that the federal government views this rulemaking as the first step in an iterative UAS policymaking process on model aircraft. A key goal is the regular collection of safety data from the user community so that the FAA can continue to develop refine the regulations and expand access to the national airspace over time.

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Help Us Protect The Freedom To Fly UAVs
FAQ About Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)
FAA Know Before You Fly Video
FAA Grants Section 333 Exemptions
FAA Limitations on Hobbyist
FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012
FAA UAS Notice of Proposed Rulemaking
FAA Regulations for UAV
FAA Section 333 COA Processing
FAA Section 333 Special Rules For UAVs
FAA Special Airworthiness Certification
FAA Temporary Flight Restrictions
FAA UAS Guidance for Law Enforcement
FAA UAS Research Test Sites
FAA UAS Test Site Selection

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