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Old Oct 10, 2013, 08:32 AM
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FAA Regulatory Authority Over Model Aircraft

So I ran across this item at DIY Drones. If you go out and read this, you see an attorney builds a very strong case for dismissal of an FAA case against a model operator who received compensation for his aerial photography.

I'd never advise that anyone here test the waters with the FAA, but the response I read definitely made me think about what I'd already assumed to be true in regards to policy vs regulatory authority.

That being said, I am a big believer in practicing safely and using self-regulated rules and common sense to avoid damage to property and injury to persons.

I don't have one bit of trouble with the idea that a model aircraft operator would make money by performing services such as aerial photography as long as they don't incidentally violate other laws be it federal, state, or local.

http://www.kramerlevin.com/files/upl...A-v-Pirker.pdf
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Old Oct 11, 2013, 12:59 PM
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Wow. Certainly covers all the points.
Jim
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Old Oct 11, 2013, 01:52 PM
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What I see is an attorney that knows very little about FAA regulations. They have authority over all aircraft in the US airspace, and require certificates of airworthiness for anything that flies except model aircraft flown for personal use and not for hire. Commercial operation of ANY aircraft in US airspace presently requires a commercial pilot license and a certificated aircraft.

Those are the rules.
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Old Oct 11, 2013, 02:47 PM
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I just received a dollar as payment for flying a paper airplane. Quick! Somebody call the FAA!!
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Old Oct 11, 2013, 03:10 PM
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Just last week a national commercial was filmed near where I live using an octo carrying a Red camera. How are they permitted to do this? They closed off a couple of streets in Takoma Park, MD and shot actors walking through town. The machine was flown about 10 feet off the ground in the video I saw.
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Old Oct 11, 2013, 04:14 PM
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FAA Regulatory Authority Over Model Aircraft

They're not, but the FAA doesn't have that kind if enforcement capability. They have REAL airplanes with REAL risk to deal with and they rely on self compliance a lot even in that area.
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Old Oct 11, 2013, 04:17 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Moto Moto View Post
What I see is an attorney that knows very little about FAA regulations. They have authority over all aircraft in the US airspace, and require certificates of airworthiness for anything that flies except model aircraft flown for personal use and not for hire. Commercial operation of ANY aircraft in US airspace presently requires a commercial pilot license and a certificated aircraft.

Those are the rules.
If the courts rule (and I don't know that they will), that model aircraft are exempted because the FAA has no regulatory authority, everything you just asserted will have no bearing. That attorney's legal theory (both sides form them as they construct a case) is both interesting and complete.

I am curious and interested as well in your viewpoint and rationale, so since you've read it, can you specifically point to which regulations allow the FAA to regulate model aircraft, and having done that how they apply in this case? Nothing big; just a few bullet points if you like. It will help the discussion.

My hunch is that over time the FAA will construct a response and legal theory that the courts will most likely uphold, but it won't be on the current basis that the FAA conducts its oversight and cease and desist orders.

In fact, I expect that some sort of guidance, clarification, or NPRM will be forthcoming to define and differentiate model aircraft from drones. It may eventually be part of the UAS regulation mandate given by Congress. But even that would be sticky.

You can find something like it for unmanned balloons in the FAR's. As long as size and payload are beneath a threshold, they are in general not regulated. See CFR Part 101.1 et seq.
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Old Oct 11, 2013, 04:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Moto Moto View Post
What I see is an attorney that knows very little about FAA regulations. They have authority over all aircraft in the US airspace, and require certificates of airworthiness for anything that flies except model aircraft flown for personal use and not for hire. Commercial operation of ANY aircraft in US airspace presently requires a commercial pilot license and a certificated aircraft.

Those are the rules.
What's the definition of an "aircraft" under the FAA regs? Are there any exceptions or carveouts? What are the rulemaking procedures, and what is the enforceability of interpretive letters and guidelines?

There are a lot of details that matter in any particular case, and I'm just naturally skeptical than an absolute statement holds in any given scenario.
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Old Oct 11, 2013, 04:21 PM
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BTW - I think states can and will define and regulate them any way they want to. HB912 here in Texas is one example. I am not fond of the law, but it did pass legitimately, so I am compelled to obey it.

Whatever the FAA does, I suspect there will be a hodge podge of laws at the state and even local levels.
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Old Oct 11, 2013, 04:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AlanGold View Post
Just last week a national commercial was filmed near where I live using an octo carrying a Red camera. How are they permitted to do this? They closed off a couple of streets in Takoma Park, MD and shot actors walking through town. The machine was flown about 10 feet off the ground in the video I saw.
I'm not sure the FAA does consider it legal. I think a lot of people just outright skirt it and assume they won't get caught. Others - like wedding photographers - will charge for the pictures on the ground and say the aerial shots are free. I'm not sure the FAA would accept this. Yet others, such as realtors, will say that the aerial is free and is just a part of an expense (not profit) which is incidental to the real business of showing and selling property. This likely would pass the test, though I don't know for certain.

So here's where it gets fuzzy for me.

If I am in the business of using a quad to do aerial photography, the FAA clearly views that as a violation. But if I use the aerial photography from my quad to show you the FPV function and/or an aerial shot of a similar model I am selling, that is likely just a legal way for me to conduct my hobby sales.

As long as no one was paid to do the aerial shots, I can still use those in my internet and TV commercials all I want. I can use the aerial photography to sell my quads and make a profit. The FAA appears not to have a problem with that.

My assumption is that if this were not true, vendors like nitroplanes.com would have agents raid them and shut them down. Posting new planes on youtube (and often doing aerial shots) is a big part of their business model.
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Last edited by dapple63; Oct 11, 2013 at 04:44 PM. Reason: clarity
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Old Oct 11, 2013, 05:23 PM
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Having read previous cases regarding other areas of government regulations, rules and the interpretation of them - we can expect ludicrous rules, insane fines and penalties, and harsh enforcement. They will interpret as they see fit after making suitably ambiguous rules, take your stuff if they want and spend millions to prosecute you - all without any logic or reason.

For whatever reason "drones" are being demonized and are big news - a couple weeks ago someone crashed a Phantom in NYC and almost hit some guy, and in England they found a quadcopter crashed into a bridge - both a pretty big deal according to the articles.

Read up -

http://abclocal.go.com/wabc/story?se...ors&id=9270668

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/arti...y-arrives.html

Get ready for the foot on your neck - this will be taken away from hobbyists and they will be operated by the .gov only. After all, no one "needs" one right?

Just my prediction, I hope I'm wrong.
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Old Oct 11, 2013, 08:36 PM
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http://www.faa.gov/news/fact_sheets/...m?newsId=14153

Model Aircraft
Recreational use of airspace by model aircraft is covered by FAA Advisory Circular 91-57, which generally limits operations to below 400 feet above ground level and away from airports and air traffic. In 2007, the FAA clarified that AC 91-57 only applies to modelers, and specifically excludes individuals or companies flying model aircraft for business purposes.

The FAA guidance is available at: http://www.faa.gov/documentLibrary/m...ular/91-57.pdf
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Old Oct 11, 2013, 09:13 PM
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An advisory is not law. It's by definition a recommendation.
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Old Oct 11, 2013, 09:20 PM
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You don't have them pay you for the aerial service, you have them pay for the "editing" of video and pictures. The fact they were taken from a quad, helicopter, real or otherwise is irrelevant.

Clyde
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Old Oct 11, 2013, 09:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Cicada View Post
An advisory is not law. It's by definition a recommendation.
You didn't read the UAS document. Operation under the model aircraft advisory is an exemption from the FAA rules on UAS operations. Any other UAS operation, including operation for hire, must comply with the UAS regulations. FAA regulations carry the full authority of laws, and the FAA can levy fines for violations directly without taking you to court.
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