The FAA recently published a draft document entitled "Interpretation of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft" that is potentially very damaging to our community. If implemented, this legal interpretation would outlaw FPV flying with goggles, create additional requirements to get permission from aircraft control towers to fly, and generally seek to apply greater FAA interference with non-commercial use of UAS.
The agency is legally obliged to offer a comment period and now is the time to make our voices heard before the FAA takes away our legal rights! The comment period closes July 25, so please visit http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=FAA[masked] and post your response before that time.
Below is some suggested language you can use in your comments. Please feel to copy it, adapt it, or write something completely new, but please don't let July 25 pass without letting the FAA know that our community will not let them destroy this activity that we are so passionate about!
"I am a UAS operator and a member of the Drone User Group Network, a 5000+ community based organization dedicated to teaching people how to operate UAS. Most of our members’ activities are non-commercial in nature and fall under the auspices of model aircraft. Our community is deeply disappointed by the FAA’s recently published Interpretation of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft, which will undermine this activity, the industry that supports it, and the many individuals who are contributing to innovation in the aerospace sector as recreational users.
The FAA seems to have taken the most restrictive possible stance in regards to first person view (FPV) flying, essentially banning the increasingly popular practice of flying using goggles streaming from a camera mounted on the model aircraft. There is no evidence that any significant risks to the NAS comes from FPV flying when people follow community based guidelines such as those issued by the Academy of Model Aeronautics, which you are obviously referencing in footnote 2, and requires FPV flying to be done with a spotter who maintains visual line of site (VLOS) and who is capable of taking control of the craft in the case that they observe anything unsafe happening. There is no reason why this two-person team can’t be considered to be operating the aircraft together and therefore maintain the VLOS criteria mentioned in FAA Modernization and Reform Act.
The FAA is also adding new requirements to model aircraft that extend beyond the law when it states, “If the model aircraft operator provides notice of forthcoming operations which are then not authorized by air traffic or objected to by the airport operator, the FAA expects the model aircraft operator will not conduct the proposed flights.“ This statement implies that the person operating the model aircraft needs positive authorization in order to fly, which is a very different concept than what is in the language of previous statutes requiring operator and control tower notification. A large portion of the American population lives within 5 miles of an airport, so this will effect a significant portion of flyers.
Overall, it is clear that the FAA is intending to circumvent Congress’ intention to allow model aircraft use to be governed by community-based organizations. Your statement that “The FAA interprets the section 336 rule making prohibition as one that must be evaluated on a rule-by-rule basis,” provides an interpretation of your authority that is so broad as to render Congress’ clear intention meaningless and creates unnecessary uncertainty amongst the community of model aircraft pilots. Community based organizations have been issuing safety guidelines since well before the FAA was founded and have an exemplary record in maintaining public and operator safety. It is unfortunate that the FAA has decided to take an antagonistic approach towards the model aircraft community, alienating
organizations such as the AMA that have made significant efforts to
collaborate with the agency.
Non-commercial users of UAS technology have an important role to play in contributing to aerospace innovation in the United States. By restricting our community’s activities beyond what is strictly needed to maintain public safety, the FAA is undermining American competitiveness as other countries allow much more freedom for both non-commercial and commercial use of UAS. We hope the FAA will reconsider both the specific additional restrictions being placed on model aircraft pilots that are outlined above as well as its overall approach to engaging with our community. "