Opinion: FAA Drone Restrictions by Nathan Oh

Written in English class with support of Ms. Galvani

 FAA Proposes New Drone Restrictions

Should Drones be Restricted Even More?

Who Are Some of the People Flying?

Sailplanes soar around high over head, sport planes zip around, foam board planes climb high, multirotors looking for a lost plane and having fun, that one guy who keeps crashing, is this a weird dream that you have after staying up for too long? Nope! Just a normal summer weekend at most RC flying fields. As the Charles River Radio Controllers website puts it “…we consistently promote and enjoy the sport, education, and hobby of radio controlled scale flight.” Now if someone says that those people have to spend money and add extra weight to the plane when we’ve been keeping to ourselves, does that seem fair? In this feature article I’ll be discussing the new rule that might do that to the hobby.

The Basics 

Recently the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) proposed a new rule that would restrict drones, without transponders that would be able to broadcast to the internet via mobile phone. (So essentially I can’t fly with a transponder until I’m in 8th grade since I signed the annoying “contract!”). The point is that everyone everywhere can see where you’re flying, which seems like a violation of privacy. Although it would allow “non-compliant” drones to fly at “FRIA” sites which stand for FAA-Recognized Identification Area, but based on the wording on the FAA’s website it would ban drones that don’t have remote ID from having First Person View. “FPV” is where there is a camera mounted on a plane that streams video of what the plane “sees” to the operator. 

 

Bureaucracy

Also to apply to have a flying site be a FRIA you must be a part of a CBO (Community Based Organization) such as the AMA (Academy of Model Aeronautics) or the new Flite Test CBO, this wouldn’t allow for people to fly non-compliant drones in their backyards (front yards too!), In rural areas over their fields, or over their own property. That also means that things such as school RC clubs or a non-chartered club would have to cease operations. Since the AMA says that to be a chartered club you must have at least 2 members who are over the age of 18, which means they have to pay membership dues. Okay, that’s the basics.

Conspiracy Theories

There have been theories about why the FAA has proposed this, stupid pilots being one theory, DJI (Chinese drone company)  might be a problem as Flite Test Forum user PsyBorg says. “ The problems are with “Those guys” who don’t follow any rules and care nothing about the hobby only what they want to do. The other part is uneducated new pilots who have been drawn in by the DJI hype “Anyone can fly a drone…”” I believe that that is mostly or completely true since some uneducated pilots may not fully understand aerospace restrictions or using their drones inappropriately, such as spying on people etc. However, most hobbyists (drone pilots) aren’t like that, we fly multirotors, and planes appropriately without infringing on 

people’s privacy. We don’t send them too far since often times people have large investments in their aircraft, so we have an incentive not to lose it, unlike the drone swarms in Colorado. Even most people who build cheap planes like me tend to avoid being irresponsible since we know that if we don’t follow the legal red-tape (or yellow tape). Then we will cause laws like this, the media also focuses on the negative instead of the good. You hear about the drones swarming over Colorado, and causing flight cancelations at Gatwick on the news, instead of Drones save lives in Rwanda or FliteTest STEM uses drones to teach kids about flight. 

Aviation Landscapes

Although it has been good having an international group backing us, aka the AMA, I think along with my flying club that the AMA should be doing more, the FAA continuously puts chains on us and the AMA is just letting that happen without very much resistance. In 2018, the FAA said that we couldn’t fly above 400FT AGL (Above Ground Level). Most planes don’t cruise around at 400 AGL only around airports, (unless the full-scale pilot wants to get their license revoked (450 knots at 300 ft in a 172, haha.)) Should that be a problem. Most drone pilots don’t fly close to airports in fact many fly in large parks, or small residential streets so safety isn’t really a problem, the AMA hasn’t really fought back and quite frankly I’m a bit disappointed. I don’t want to be like Canada where you have to have a license and you have to 16 to fly. At that point I might as well just fly a “real” airplane.

More Theories

Another possible reason why the FAA is doing this, some people think that companies like Amazon want the drone airspace all to themselves. Personally I think that aliens are taking control of the government and want as much free airspace for them to land their craft during an invasion. (Haha just kidding there’s probably no aliens running the government… Probably). But seriously Amazon has tried to use drone delivery FliteTest Forum user sprzout says. “Amazon, FedEx, etc, will be cluttering the skies with hundreds of thousands of drones for delivery of small, under 55 lb items.I think that this may be true, since drones are a new thing and almost everything new has somehow been monetized, like the internet for example, website owners get money by showing ads, and people have to pay subscriptions to things like YouTube Premium, Netflix, even the news. (Or the actual internet!) So it just makes sense that as soon as drones become commercially viable (long flight times, ease of use, etc.) that companies will they to buy in, even when hobbyists have been doing fine for years, sometimes even being customers to these companies. Although you might want to take this with a grain of salt since for the most part I haven’t heard any evidence from official sources. 

Solutions

However there are some solutions that could happen such as PsyBorg puts it. “…the simple solution would be We get 0 to 400 ft Commercial UAS get 500 to 700 feet and full scale gets 900 to space. 200 ft of separation between the layers. No need for tracking or more personal intel gathering of the general public. That way the ONLY tracking needed would be for commercial UAS and full scale who would be more closely interacting and need to be identified. Putting more funding into education as well as mandating DJI and similar companies to properly promote UAS use would go further in accomplishing the goals…” Personally I think that they put it perfectly, although the one thing I think it could add is to have no UAS zones around airports, since you don’t want another Sully incident in the Charles River

Editor, I’m Done!

In my personal opinion, not trying to offend anyone I think this is an invasion of a hobby that has been minding our own business for decades, and now we’re getting new regulations that would put a halt to the spirit of flying flying in backyards, and in fields. 

I do not believe that this is fair nor should this proposed law become a full law and stop people from enjoying the hobby. 

 

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