NOTE: While FAA registration is no longer required. this information is provided as a background regarding the FAA Registration history.
Registration of aircraft...
AMA members are now required by regulation to register their aircraft with the FAA to avoid federal enforcement and potential penalties. All Radio Control modelers must register aircraft weighing greater than 0.55 pounds online no later than February 19, 2016. The registration fee is $5. However, FAA is offering free registration when registering on or beforemidnight EST on January 21. Online registration can be accomplished on the FAA webpage at, RegisterMyUAS.faa.gov. Several AMA staff members and AMA leaders have been working with legal counsel and the FAA to find a solution for our members on the registration rule. To date, FAA has agreed in principle to several proposed initiatives that will help ease this process for our members in the future. Visitmodelaircraft.org/gov to learn more.
FAA Regulation and Legal Designation
In the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration has adopted the name unmanned aircraft (UA) to describe aircraft systems without a flight crew on board. More common names include UAV, drone, remotely piloted vehicle (RPV), remotely piloted aircraft (RPA), and remotely operated aircraft (ROA). These "limited-size" (as defined by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale) unmanned aircraft flown in the USA's National Airspace System, flown solely for recreation and sport purposes, such as models, are generally flown under the voluntary safety standards of the Academy of Model Aeronautics, the United States' national aeromodeling organization. To operate a UA for non-recreational purposes in the United States, according to the FAA users must obtain a Certificate of Authorization (COA) to operate in national airspace. At the moment, COAs require a public entity as a sponsor. For example, when BP needed to observe oil spills, they operated the Aeryon Scout UAVs under a COA granted to the University of Alaska Fairbanks. COAs have been granted for both land and shipborne operations.
The FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 sets a deadline of 30 September 2015, for the agency to establish regulations to allow the use of commercial drones. In the meantime, the agency claims it is illegal to operate commercial unmanned aerial vehicles, but approves non-commercial flights under 400 feet if they follow Advisory Circular 91-57, Model Aircraft Operating Standards, published in 1981. However, the FAA's attempt to fine a commercial drone operator for a 2011 flight were thrown out on 6 March 2014 by NTSB judge Patrick Geraghty, who found that the FAA had not followed the proper rulemaking procedures and therefore had no UAV regulations. The FAA will appeal the judgement. Texas EquuSearch, which performs volunteer search and rescue operations, was also challenging FAA rules in 2014.
As of August 2013, commercial unmanned aerial system (UAS) licenses were granted on a case-by-case basis, subject to approval by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The agency expects that five years after it unveils a regulatory framework for UASs weighing 55 pounds or less, there will be 7,500 such devices in the air. In December 2013, the FAA announced six operators it was authorizing to conduct research on drone technology, to inform its pending regulations and future developments. These were the University of Alaska (including locations in Hawaii and Oregon), the state of Nevada,Griffiss International Airport in New York State, the North Dakota Department of Commerce,Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi, and Virginia Tech.
In May 2014, a group of major news media companies filed an amicus brief in a case before the U.S.'s National Transportation Safety Board, asserting that the FAA's "overly broad" administrative limitations against private UAS operations cause an "impermissible chilling effect on the First Amendment newsgathering rights of journalists", the brief being filed three months before a scheduled rollout of FAA commercial operator regulations.
The term unmanned aircraft system (UAS) emphasizes the importance of other elements beyond an aircraft itself. A typical UAS consists of the following:
For example, the RQ-7 Shadow UAS consists of four UAs, two GCSs, one portable GCS, one Launcher, two Ground Data Terminals (GDTs), one portable GDT, and one Remote Video Terminal. Certain military units are also fielded with a maintenance support vehicle.
Because of this systemic approach, unmanned aircraft systems have not been included in the United States Munitions List Category VIII – Aircraft and Associated Equipment. Vice versa, the “Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Systems” are clearly mentioned at paragraph 121-16 Missile Technology Control Regime Annex of the United States Munitions List. More precisely, the Missile Technology Control Regime Annex levels rocket and unmanned aerial vehicle systems together.
The term used previously for unmanned aircraft system was unmanned-aircraft vehicle system (UAVS).
FAA Interpretation of 2012 Congressional Mandate
COMMENTS ENDED: 09/23/2014
The extended period for comments to the FAA has ended, but the AMA is continuing the battle against the FAA on behalf of all its members. Here is a link to current information: http://www.modelaircraft.org/files/AMAComments_InterpRule0914.pdf
SENATE HEARING: 09/21/2014
The US Government is planning to permit six, maybe seven movie companies to use UAV for filming purposes (media is using the term "drones" to collectively represent all unmanned and FPV related model aircraft, which many agree is an incorrect term.)