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View Poll Results: Max Altitude
400ft agl (current AC 91-57 guideline) 16 17.02%
500ft agl 6 6.38%
1000ft agl 72 76.60%
Voters: 94. You may not vote on this poll

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Old Jul 12, 2008, 04:31 PM
FPV Desert Beta Test Center
Mesa, Arizona
Joined Nov 2006
2,303 Posts
Poll
Proposed U.S. FPV Guidelines - Max Altitude

These threads are to poll U.S. FPV pilots on recommended guidelines for submission to the ARC which has been given authorization by FAA to prepare guidelines for small unmanned aerial vehicles.

This link will provide the background of how and why ARC was formed and its agenda.

http://tinyurl.com/5svend

The following link is to the FAA Interim Operational Approval For Unmanned Aircraft that was issued in March of this year.

http://tinyurl.com/6lufmu

While this document does not effect hobbyists and amateur model aircraft users when operating systems for sport and recreation if does provide good feel for the issues they are focusing on such as spotters, operating range, etc. We can expect that these same issues may also be considered in formulating changes to AC91-57.

After polling is complete these main guidelines will be supplemented with additional secondary requirements from pilot input received.

In answering these question please remember the reply should not reflect what you would like if were your decision but what is reasonable and has a chance to be accepted by the rule makers.
The poll will end in 30 days.


Thanks!
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Old Jul 12, 2008, 04:52 PM
Suspended Account
Netherlands, NH, Edam
Joined Jul 2004
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Here in the Netherlands there's restrictions on how high model aircraft can fly, I'm not sure if that's the same in the US. But I guess you'd like to stay away from the cruising altitude of small aircraft (Cessnas, Piper Cubs, etc.) near airfields etc.

On the other hand I've seen one Cessna - FPV plane collision, the Cessna pilot thought he hit a bird and didn't have a dent or scratch on the plane, the FPV plane (an EasyStar) was however basically in a hundred pieces. So the question is, what would be the reasoning behind applying restrictions to height? Is it to prevent midair collisions with 'real' aircraft, or is there another reason for doing so?

So again, we need to define what risks we want to warrant ourselves against by applying restrictions. If the risks are not properly understood it is rather foolish to try and set restrictions.

Cheers,

Sander.
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Old Jul 12, 2008, 05:02 PM
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Elmhurst, NY (Queens in NYC)
Joined Apr 2004
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I think the current 400 foot guideline is never going to be changed or if it is, it will be changed into a rule.

BTW, and not something that happens everywhere, but we've had two different aircraft (Cessna 172 and a Supercub) both fly way lower than 400 feet over our field, and though we are the last open field of a series, there is a housing development about a mile away in line with the Cessna, who flew over several days in a row!

I wonder what the FAA would think about that! Maybe we should have our field listed on the charts as an anti aircraft gunnery range!

Pete
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Old Jul 12, 2008, 05:05 PM
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typicalaimster's Avatar
United States, CA, San Diego
Joined Jan 2005
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To answer SSassen... Right now it's not over 400' within 2 miles of an airport. My field is outside the 2 mile limit and have gliders thermal up over 400' every weekend. When we were within the 2 mile limit it wasn't a problem. Then again we let the tower know we were there.

To answer Pete. We had that issue in our neighborhood once upon a time. My dad who was a pilot wrote down the tail number of the craft. This was with unassisted vision. We reported it to the local FAA agency and the issue was taken care of within a few hours.
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Old Jul 12, 2008, 05:10 PM
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Netherlands, NH, Edam
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Quote:
Maybe we should have our field listed on the charts as an anti aircraft gunnery range!
Don't tell anyone, but I used to chase Cessnas and other aircraft with my FunJet when they took off, or flew over. The FunJet easily matches their speed and waving at the pilot (with the wings) and see him wave back sure is fun.

Also I went to France recently were I was amazed to find a RC field right next to small airfield. They considered this normal, RC planes are just small aircraft no? And in the +30 years they were out there never had any problems. Which makes sense as a normal RC pilot has his eyes on his plane all the time and will normally avoid to cross the path of an incoming 'real' plane.

When flying FPV far enough out so you can't hear incoming aircraft you might be surprised to find yourself ina tricky situation. I had a mid-air encounter with an Apache helicopter once which I didn't hear coming but suddenly showed up to my right, scared the living daylights out of me I can tell you. And no, he didn't use the mini-gun on my poor EasyStar.

Cheers,

Sander.
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Old Jul 12, 2008, 07:33 PM
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Elmhurst, NY (Queens in NYC)
Joined Apr 2004
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Quote:
Originally Posted by typicalaimster
[snip]
To answer Pete. We had that issue in our neighborhood once upon a time. My dad who was a pilot wrote down the tail number of the craft. This was with unassisted vision. We reported it to the local FAA agency and the issue was taken care of within a few hours.
There are a series of fields that line up with the path the Cessna was flying. I could probably post a view from some of my videos. My personal guess is that this was an instructor using the area for some sort of training. I don't know if anyone did anything about it but he was not seen after a couple of weeks. Maybe he figured out that the area offered a potential hazard and left or maybe someone in the housing development put in a complaint.

Pete
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Old Jul 14, 2008, 12:43 AM
JettPilot's Avatar
Miami
Joined Apr 2005
9,567 Posts
This is important, where and how high you fly are key to flying FPV safely. I fly full scale over RC fields quite often, and I see large 30 % aerobatics planes shoot up to around 1000 feet AGL all the time.

I think 1000 feet is a good number... And stay far enough away from airports and high traffic areas.

JettPilot
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Old Jul 14, 2008, 04:54 AM
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tvdude310's Avatar
Los Angeles
Joined Jan 2008
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GA aircraft are supposed to stay 500 feet from any person, property or vessel. So those low flights mentioned are not really legal. Funny though, you can fly from here in Los Angeles all the way to Catalina Island 10 feet from the water if you want to and can stay away from boats.
I voted for 1000 ft. because it is typically the average pattern altitude of most GA airports, which is usually the lowest altitude flown in most GA flights.
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Old Jul 14, 2008, 07:45 AM
FPV Desert Beta Test Center
Mesa, Arizona
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I see we are getting votes for a max altitude limits over 400 ft AGL. It needs to be pointed out that the existing FAA guideline AC 91-57 limits us to 400 ft AGL and in the U.S. some geographical areas are controlled airspace above 700 ft AGL. The 400 ft limit of AC 91-57 wasn't just picked out of the air. Full sized fixed wing aircraft are allowed to fly as low as 500 ft in uncongested areas so the 400 ft limit was chosen to provide a buff.

If we go in with a 500 or 1000 ft guideline it tells them that 1) We are not going to follow the existing AC 91-57 guideline which is currently the only approval to fly model aircraft and that 2) We believe we have the right to fly model aircraft in controlled national airspace where everyone else is required to be licensed and have certified airplanes.

We IMHO are never going to be allowed to legally fly model aircraft in U.S. controlled airspace and this could be taken as us flaunting existing FAA guidelines/regulations. I should have made this point more clearly up front. Before the polling is closed I am going to ask anyone voting for 500 and 1000 ft AGL to reconsider in this light. A PM to me and I'll make the adjustments in the final tally. Sorry for any confusion on this issue.
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Old Jul 14, 2008, 12:43 PM
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Kilrah's Avatar
Switzerland
Joined Sep 2006
3,770 Posts
Here full size aircraft lowest alt is 300m over inhabited places, 150m in the open, where model fields usually are. Yet, there's no strict rule about the max alt for model aircraft, except in CTRs and within 5kms of any airfield where it is 150m. So, in the current situation is that an encounter would be possible.

We've just been talking about that because my R/C field is about 10km away from an airfield, and like Pete said we regularly have full size planes doing low passes (sometimes under the 150m...) over our field, to say hello or whatever, so we've just reported that to the air club so they can run an internal note about it. For sure we need to act responsibly, but they also do. Some seem definitely not to realise that they might not always see a model, even if it can be large enough to cause some damage. We do some glider tow with large machines, fly 2m+ planes, and full scale pilots might be looking at the people on the field without thinking a 10kg machine is in the air 500m further... And in case of a strike, it's not the 100m ground alt that would leave them a lot of time to react to what happened.

But it has also come to my attention that quite a few full-scale pilots actually aren't aware of what model aircraft can be, and many are surprised when they are showed some, as much about the performance of today's small electric planes in terms of speed and power/weight ratios than about big ones as they wouldn't think we have stuff that size.
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Old Jul 14, 2008, 02:08 PM
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tvdude310's Avatar
Los Angeles
Joined Jan 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gary Evans
I see we are getting votes for a max altitude limits over 400 ft AGL. It needs to be pointed out that the existing FAA guideline AC 91-57 limits us to 400 ft AGL and in the U.S. some geographical areas are controlled airspace above 700 ft AGL. The 400 ft limit of AC 91-57 wasn't just picked out of the air. Full sized fixed wing aircraft are allowed to fly as low as 500 ft in uncongested areas so the 400 ft limit was chosen to provide a buff.

If we go in with a 500 or 1000 ft guideline it tells them that 1) We are not going to follow the existing AC 91-57 guideline which is currently the only approval to fly model aircraft and that 2) We believe we have the right to fly model aircraft in controlled national airspace where everyone else is required to be licensed and have certified airplanes.

We IMHO are never going to be allowed to legally fly model aircraft in U.S. controlled airspace and this could be taken as us flaunting existing FAA guidelines/regulations. I should have made this point more clearly up front. Before the polling is closed I am going to ask anyone voting for 500 and 1000 ft AGL to reconsider in this light. A PM to me and I'll make the adjustments in the final tally. Sorry for any confusion on this issue.
This is the kind of accurate info necessary to foster these constructive discussions. Gary, I PM'ed you about changing my vote, thanks for the head's up.
I would like to work inside the framework of existing regulations, meaning 400ft. AGL.
Rob
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Old Jul 14, 2008, 02:19 PM
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Daemon's Avatar
Lakewood, Colorado
Joined Aug 2002
27,684 Posts
Do keep in mind that AC 91-57 is a set of guidelines, not hard regulations (yet).
People fly R/C above 400 ft AGL all the time. Heck, F3J TD planes
launch a couple hundred feet higher than that, and thermal much
higher still. I've had hand launch gliders a 1000 feet up.

I do not think we should go out of our way to turn everything in AC 91-57
into full blown regulation, but go with a limit that people might actually
respect. A lot of people in the R/C world fly above 400ft AGL today, so
why would we expect them to not do so in the future?

And yes full scale aircraft do sometimes fly very low in rural areas.
Any pilot who does so, has to know they're bringing themselves
into a greater density of birds, balloons, kites, R/C aircraft,
paragliders, hang gliders, ultralights, etc, although in general, it's still
"a very big sky".

ian
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Old Jul 14, 2008, 02:38 PM
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tvdude310's Avatar
Los Angeles
Joined Jan 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Daemon
Do keep in mind that AC 91-57 is a set of guidelines, not hard regulations (yet).
People fly R/C above 400 ft AGL all the time. Heck, F3J TD planes
launch a couple hundred feet higher than that, and thermal much
higher still. I've had hand launch gliders a 1000 feet up.

I do not think we should go out of our way to turn everything in AC 91-57
into full blown regulation, but go with a limit that people might actually
respect. A lot of people in the R/C world fly above 400ft AGL today, so
why would we expect them to not do so in the future?

And yes full scale aircraft do sometimes fly very low in rural areas.
Any pilot who does so, has to know they're bringing themselves
into a greater density of birds, balloons, kites, R/C aircraft,
paragliders, hang gliders, ultralights, etc, although in general, it's still
"a very big sky".

ian
Well said. I stated that I would "like to work inside the framework of existing regulations", and I should have said "guidelines". As well as regulations that currently exist.
I think it should be approached this way:
If you want to fly higher than normal guidelines allow, be certain about the airspace involved in your flight. Under LAX's umbrella of controlled airspace, for example, NO. Out in open rural areas? Why not, especially if you can show evidence that you are not encroaching on GA airspace. This is a situation where a set altitude may not work for our set of guidelines. This should be part of the "location" guideline, meaning the 3D space of the flight. This guideline is going to be wordy to accommodate everyone, but I think it's possible to write a self-regulating guideline that we can all be happy about.
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Old Jul 16, 2008, 12:34 AM
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Germantown, MD
Joined Mar 2006
3,373 Posts
I reluctantly voted for 400ft. Don't get me wrong, I would much prefer a higher limit. Or no limit at all. But we need to keep things in perspective. The current guidelines state 400ft. I'm almost positive that the FAA would NOT increase this limit... just cause we want it higher. GA are restricted to 500ft and higher. I guarantee the FAA is going to want to make sure there is no overlap. The 400ft guideline in place right now is to provide a buffer zone, for the "oops" or "oh sh$t" situations where perhaps the GA was flying too low, or the model RC was flying too high. In addition, the FAA could very easily ask the question "Why do you need to fly higher than 400ft AGL?". In which case, I don't think there is any practical reason why FPV flying needs to occur higher than that. Sure, I'd like to fly higher. But why do I need to fly higher?

In any event, we need to be realistic here. The FAA is not going to regulate us to just any old altitude... just cause that's what we want. There must be a valid reason stated, and a proper risk assessment done. Yeah, yeah. I know.. there's a lot of space up there. Lots of birds too, etc. It ain't gona fly with the FAA (pun intended). The FAA's main objective is making sure that there is no risk to other aircraft. Only way that is going to happen is by segregating the airspace.

Again, I would prefer no regulation. But IF we are going to be regulated, we need to show that we are serious about this, have seriously thought about the regulations, and come to rational and logical decisions.
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Old Jul 16, 2008, 01:34 AM
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Daemon's Avatar
Lakewood, Colorado
Joined Aug 2002
27,684 Posts
And my point is that 400ft is already routinely ignored. I understand
why the recommendation is there, but it is just a guideline, not a full
FAA reg, and it's unrealistic. Every person who's ever thermalled a plane
on a good day, with a wing span over 60 inches has flown above 400 feet.
Anyone who flies giant scale, or turbines, flies over 400 ft. Anyone who's
ever punched out of a DS groove at 150+mph gets to 400+ feet AGL in
seconds. Fly straight out at eye level in front of a 1000 foot slope,
and you'll be more than 400 feet AGL very quickly.
Try to fly FPV a few hundred feet beyond a nearby line of trees and you'll
find that you need to be above 400 feet to avoid loss of signal.

If they actually make max of 400 ft AGL a full reg, and tried to enforce it
for us, they'd have to enforce it for all of R/C and I think that's bad for
everyone. I won't cut off my nose to spite my face. This is something
where the whole R/C community needs to take a stand, to represent
the reality, which we've lived with for decades without a problem.

ian
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