Gov. Relations Blog – AMA Officers, Clubs and Members updating and sharing the latest Federal, State and Local government UAS regulatory news pertaining to AMA aeromodeling.

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  • 02 Jan 2018 4:30 AM | Andrew (Administrator)

    Punish rogue recreational drone pilots — not the rule followers

    We would like to share with you a new op-ed by AMA president Rich Hanson, which was published in The Hill newspaper: “Punish rogue recreational drone pilots — not the rule followers”.


    The Hill is a news outlet in Washington, D.C. that many members of Congress, and their staff, read on a regular basis. This article, which you can read in full below, is just one part of our ongoing efforts to protect the hobby of flying model aircraft.


    Punish rogue recreational drone pilots — not the rule followers

    BY RICH HANSON, OPINION CONTRIBUTOR — 01/02/18 03:00 PM 


    There is a lot of misinformation, and lack of information, surrounding the policies that govern recreational drones. Even those who work on drone policy inaccurately characterize provisions allowing for recreational use of drones, Part 107 and Section 336 of the 2012 FAA Modernization and Reform Act. This mischaracterization branding these provisions as a “get out of jail free” card for anyone who wants to fly drones or model aircraft, as a recent opinion piece in The Hill argued. This couldn’t be further from the truth.


    I agree with the Commercial Drone Alliance that drones have significant potential to support public officials and help small businesses grow. However, critics like the alliance completely mischaracterize the challenge of regulating recreational drones.


    Let me be clear — if you are flying drones for recreational purposes today, you must be operating within an established safety program, and there are two ways of doing so. By default, recreational pilots are to fly under the FAA’s Small Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Rule, known as Part 107.

    The only other way to operate is to fully comply with the criteria of Section 336 (Part 101) and fly within the programming of a community-based organization. Federal regulations require that recreational drone flyers must be educated and operate under one of these two options.


    The problem is that many people don’t understand this.

    According to the current laws, recreational drone pilots are only eligible to fly under Section 336 if they fly in accordance with the safety guidelines and within the safety programming of a community-based organization, such as the Academy of Model Aeronautics. By our estimate, only about 200,000 people fall into this category, most of them are academy members.


    To put this in perspective, according to the FAA, around 900,000 recreational users have registered their drones with the agency so far. The math from here is easy — about 200,000 people fly under Section 336 and the remaining 700,000 are required to operate under Part 107. Those that aren’t flying under Part 107 are in violation 14 CFR § 107.12, the requirement for a remote pilot certificate.


    The truth is Section 336 is not to blame for rogue flyers. Those people are Part 107 violators — and should be treated as such.


    If Congress wants to increase the safety of our skies, they should help recreational drone pilots understand that they need to comply with Part 107. Congress should also task the FAA with increasing enforcement so that those who violate Part 107 are held accountable for their actions.

    Many recreational drone pilots already know when, where and how to fly safely, and they comply with the law. Many pilots follow rigorous safety guidelines and our members are afforded a $2.5 million-dollar liability insurance policy, establishing financial responsibility.


    Pilots following the rules are not the problem, but we acknowledge that some tweaks to Section 336 may be necessary to clarify who the provision does and does not cover. We are willing to work with Congress and the UAS industry to ensure that those that fly under Section 336 are educated, trained and managed by an established community-based organization — and that everyone else operates under Part 107.


    Rogue flyers are Part 107 violators. We must, first and foremost, make clear the need to follow Part 107 if not operating within a community-based organization. And when someone violates Part 107, he or she needs to be held accountable. Unfounded statements asking to revoke the Special Rule only harm a community of responsible model aviation hobbyists and will do nothing to curb the 700,000 rogue drone pilots.


    Interest in drones has soared this year and shows no signs of slowing down. As it currently stands, the FAA is under-resourced to handle the growing surge in commercial drones, Part 107 waiver requests and future rulemakings. That’s why public-private partnerships with experienced community-based organization s such as Academy of Model Aeronautics can be helpful in alleviating the strain on the FAA and enhance safety.


    In the next FAA reauthorization bill, Congress should continue to allow organizations such as AMA to manage its members as part of the recreational community, preserving the option to fly safely and responsibly under our guidelines, oversight and eighty years of experience.

    Rich Hanson is the President of the Academy of Model Aeronautics.


  • 20 Dec 2017 3:00 PM | Andrew (Administrator)


    What Does Remote ID and Tracking Mean For Our Members?


    As you may be aware, AMA participated in the FAA’s Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) advisory panel, which made recommendations to the agency on creating standards for remote identification and tracking unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). The ARC identified technologies to allow law enforcement, homeland defense, national security and air traffic control communities to remotely track and identify UAS in the airspace. Today, the FAA released the recommendations the panel provided to the agency.


    One recommendation made by the panel requires that remote ID and tracking should only apply to aircraft that have the capability to fly autonomously, by navigating between more than one point without active control of the pilot, or flying beyond 400 feet using a real-time sensor or camera. This means that model aircraft not capable of autonomous or long-range operations do not have to comply with remote ID and tracking.


    An alternative recommendation requires all UAS to comply with remote ID and tracking with only a few exemptions. These exemptions include UAS for law enforcement or under air traffic control, models not capable of flying beyond 400 feet (such as toys) and models waived or exempted by the FAA or a community-based organization like the AMA.


    AMA believes remote identification and tracking for certain UAS makes sense at some level, depending on the UAS sophistication and capability. Throughout the numerous panel meetings and conversations that led to the advisory panel’s recommendations, AMA continuously advocated for a common-sense approach to remote identification and tracking that doesn’t harm our hobby or low-risk operations.


    Most importantly, we strongly believe that we must continue educating all UAS pilots, which is what truly equips hobbyists and commercial operators to fly responsibly.


  • 08 Nov 2017 7:54 PM | Andrew (Administrator)

    It is very likely Congress will pass and the President will sign into law the National Defense Authorization Act that will reverse the John Taylor case. This bill will again require that model aviation pilots, including AMA members, to register and label their aircraft with the FAA. Members who fly exclusively indoors, CL, FF, and/or models under .55 pounds will not be required to register. If a member previously registered with the FAA, they are not required to register again. Congress is hoping to hand this bill to the President for a signature before Thanksgiving.

        AMA believes registration makes sense at some level, but maintains that the criteria and thresholds needs revised. We also are advocating that members should be able to use their AMA number/membership as an alternative to the registration requirement. With that being said, we ask members to comply with the FAA registration rule once it is in effect while we work through these issues.


  • 05 Oct 2017 1:34 PM | Andrew (Administrator)

    AMA’S ANALYSIS ALSO FINDS THAT SOME SIGHTINGS APPEAR TO BE USERS FLYING APPROPRIATELY; “DRONE” CONTINUES TO BE A CATCH-ALL TERM FOR ANY OBJECT IN THE SKY


    A new analysis released today by the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) reviews the 1,270 new unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) sightings reported by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) earlier this year. AMA’s analysis finds that the vast majority of these sightings are just that – sightings. Importantly, when releasing the latest data, the FAA specifically stated that no collision between civilian aircraft and a civilian drone operator has been confirmed.


    “In comparison to the growing number of drone sales and operators, the total number of UAS reports in the FAA’s data is just a small fraction,” said Rich Hanson, President of AMA. “Safety has always been our number one priority. That’s why we’re encouraged to see that most of the reports are mere drone sightings and do not appear to pose serious safety risks.”


    While the number of reports included in the FAA’s latest data set increased, it covered a longer time period and occurred within the context of an increase in the number of people flying UAS. According to the Consumer Technology Association, drone sales reached 700,000 units in 2015 and 2.4 million units in 2016, an increase of 112 percent. And in late March 2017, the FAA announced that more than 770,000 UAS operators have registered their drones with the FAA since the registration rule went into effect. The total number of drone sightings the FAA has reported – 2,616 since August 2015 – only accounts for 0.34 percent of the total number of registered operators.


    Among the findings in AMA’s new analysis of the FAA drone data:

    Consistent with what AMA found in the August 2015 and March 2016 data sets, some sightings included in the data set appear to involve people flying responsibly and in accordance with UAS guidelines. In the February 2017 data, AMA specifically identified 86 reports of drones flying at or below 400 feet.


    Like the previous data sets, the February 2017 data contains reports of several objects other than drones, including balloons, birds, a parasail, a “blob” and a “silver box.” The term drone continues to be used as a “catch-all” for any object spotted in the sky.


    While the FAA has expressed its intent to punish careless and reckless operators, law enforcement notifications continue to decline. In the August 2015 data, nearly 20 percent of reports were not referred to local law enforcement or law enforcement notification was unknown. To compare, in the March 2016 data that number was 29 percent, and in the February 2017 data that number is 30 percent.


    The data includes 13 sightings that occurred in areas near wildfires or wildfire-related Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs). This is an increase from the previous two datasets in which only 4 of such sightings were reported.


    AMA’s complete analysis of the FAA data can be found here: 

    https://www.modelaircraft.org/files/UASSightingsAnalysisbyAMA5-10-17.pdf 


  • 29 Sep 2017 9:30 PM | Andrew (Administrator)
    FAA Reauthorization Extension through March 2018


    The AMA Government Relations team has been working diligently with Congress to ensure our hobby is protected in Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization legislation. Last night, the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives passed a six-month extension of the FAA’s current authorization.

        The new FAA extension provides continuity for the aviation community, including model aircraft. This extension means the Special Rule for Model Aircraft will remain in place and our members can continue to fly under AMA’s set of community-based safety guidelines, as we have for many decades.

        However, we still believe a longer-term reauthorization of the FAA is needed. That’s why we look forward to working with Congress on a full FAA reauthorization bill that strengthens the Special Rule for Model Aircraft and affirms the role of community-based organizations like AMA in educating and managing hobbyists.



  • 29 Sep 2017 9:17 PM | Andrew (Administrator)

    Government Relations Update, September 29, 2017


    It’s been another busy few weeks for the AMA Government Relations team in Washington, D.C. and across the country.

        Last week, the team attended Drone Advisory Committee (DAC) meetings in Washington to help shape recommendations on the role of state and local government in the regulation of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). 

        In addition, as a part of AMA’s involvement in the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC), we participated in meetings to discuss remote identification and tracking of UAS. Also this week, AMA President Rich Hanson spoke at Aviation Safety Week events across Virginia, where he discussed the importance of integrating UAS into the skies surrounding airports. We encourage you to read more about one of the events here!

        At the local level, the team helped AMA members in California, New Jersey and Nebraska fight potentially harmful legislation. We also spoke with numerous community leaders across the country about new flying fields and possible partnerships with AMA.

        Lastly, our team attended the National Recreation and Parks Association (NRPA) Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana, where AMA shared information on flying model aircraft safely. We also discussed this topic in a recent episode of the OpenSpace podcast. Click here to check it out!



  • 06 Jul 2017 3:29 PM | Andrew (Administrator)

    AMA is working hard in Washington, D.C. to represent and protect our hobby. We want to share with you more information about our activities this week.

    First, AMA President Rich Hanson attended two meetings of the FAA’s Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC), which brings the industry together to provide recommendations to the FAA concerning a full range of aviation-related issues. Importantly, this includes the integration of UAS into our nation’s airspace. For years, AMA has shared our experience managing the hobbyist community in these meetings, which play a significant role in shaping FAA policy.


    Also, our Director of Government Relations, Chad Budreau, participated in the Domestic Drone Security Summit. The goal of this meeting is to facilitate engagement between industry and government around drone security issues, inspire understanding, discuss solutions, and find areas for mutual collaboration.

    This week Chad also met with the Army Corp of Engineers to discuss a potential partnership that could allow AMA to open many new flying sites across the U.S. Although this opportunity is still in the discussion phase, we are excited about creating more places for you to fly.


    As always, we are committed to updating members on AMA’s government relations efforts as frequently as possible, including our work to protect the Special Rule for Model Aircraft in FAA reauthorization legislation. The most up to date information is available on our website www.modelaircraft.org/gov and we encourage you to reach out with any questions.


  • 15 Jun 2017 5:38 PM | Andrew (Administrator)

    Government Relations Update – April 2017

    2017 is shaping up to be another busy year on the legislative front. At the federal and local level, some legislators are discussing bills that could harm our hobby. We take these legislative proposals seriously and wanted to share an update on our efforts to protect recreational flying. While there are some challenges ahead, with your help, we are confident the model aircraft hobby will continue to thrive for generations to come.


    Local Updates

    Over the last four months, AMA’s direct contact with policymakers and work with the media has helped defeat legislation in Washington (H.B. 1049), Montana (S.B. 170), and Hawaii (H.B. 314, S.B. 710, S.B. 632, S.B. 1051, and S.B. 454). The involvement of AMA members on the ground played a critical role in this effort. In Montana and Oklahoma, local members publicly voiced their concerns to elected officials, which was key to our success in pushing back against these bills.

    In other instances, we’ve worked to ensure proposed legislation includes exemptions for AMA members who fly safely and responsibly. In Utah, for example, our efforts throughout the legislative session led to S.B. 111 being removed from the governor’s desk in order for policymakers to go back and add an exemption for those operating under the Special Rule for Model Aircraft.


    Federal Updates

    At the federal level, Congress is working on a FAA reauthorization bill that will set the responsibilities and priorities for the agency. This legislation might include changes to Special Rule for Model Aircraft, also known as Section 336, which protects our members from new and overbearing regulations. As you may remember, AMA helped usher the Special Rule for Model Aircraft into law in 2012.

    AMA is already closely working with lawmakers to strengthen and protect the Special Rule for Model Aircraft in the next FAA reauthorization bill. And as we approach summer and fall, we will provide additional updates and progress reports on this effort.


    Working with the UAS Industry

    In tandem with our advocacy efforts, AMA is collaborating with UAS industry leaders to improve safety while also offering our expertise to governing bodies through committee work and task groups. These efforts are often behind the scenes, but are just as important for protecting our hobby, improving safety in the airspace, and addressing problematic legislation.

    Because AMA members have a strong safety record and respected community-based programming, AMA earned a seat on the Steering Committee of the Unmanned Aircraft Safety Team (UAST). This team includes more than 40 industry leaders, manufacturers, and stakeholders who are working together on safety issues. In addition, AMA continues its work on the FAA’s Drone Advisory Committee.


    How to Help

    AMA will always advocate and protect our longstanding hobby, and we encourage all our members to participate in the process. If legislation is introduced in your state or city, please let us know by contacting the Government Relations team at 765-287-1256. Also, don’t forget to follow us on social media, read the Model Aviation magazine and visiwww.modelaircraft.org/gov.


  • 19 May 2017 7:48 AM | Andrew (Administrator)


    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 19, 2017

    CONTACT: Allison Haley, media@modelaircraft.org, (202) 777-3509

    AMA Statement on Federal Court of Appeals Ruling on the FAA Registration Rule


    MUNCIE, Ind. – Rich Hanson, President of the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA), today issued the following statement on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruling in the case of John Taylor V. Michael Huerta, Federal Aviation Administration:


    “AMA is encouraged to see the Court affirm the strength of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft, otherwise known as Section 336, under which our members operate. For decades, AMA members have registered their aircraft with AMA and have followed our community-based safety programming. It is our belief that a community-based program works better than a federally mandated program to manage the recreational community.


    “We have long held that federal registration of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) makes sense at an appropriate threshold of weight, capability and other safety-related characteristics. However, federal registration shouldn’t apply at such a low threshold that it includes toys. It also shouldn’t burden those who have operated harmoniously within our communities for decades, and who already comply with AMA’s registration system.”


    The Academy of Model Aeronautics, founded in 1936, continues to be devoted to national airspace safety. It serves as the nation’s collective voice for approximately 200,000 modelers in 2,400 clubs in the United States and Puerto Rico. Headquartered in Muncie, Indiana, AMA is a membership organization representing those who fly model aircraft for recreation and educational purposes. For more information, visit www.modelaircraft.org.


  • 27 Apr 2017 6:16 PM | Andrew (Administrator)

    How to Help with Local UAS Legislation:


    AMA district officers continue to monitor state and local governments for proposed UAS/drone legislation that would be detrimental to the AMA and aeromodeling. 


    In the past two years, an alarming number of municipalities have introduced ordinances and resolutions that prohibited or restricted UAS/model-aircraft flying in cities and towns within the district. 


    If you are made aware of proposed bills, ordinances or resolutions in your community, please let us know by contacting any of our AMA District Officers since its extremely difficult to monitor every local governing body in New England. 


    The sooner we can respond to proposed onerous legislation, the more likely we can voice objections and offer suggestions for revisions that will not conflict with federal law and regulations that AMA members comply with when flying UAS in the National Air Space (NAS). 


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