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Government United States Technology

FAA Drone Rules May Already Be Outlawed By Congress (hackaday.com) 226

szczys writes: New FAA rules about drone registration and operation are now in effect. So far the talk has centered around registering your aircraft, and about the weight restriction. But all of this may be moot since the US Congress made a law in 2012 prohibiting these types of rules: "The Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration may not promulgate any rule or regulation regarding a model aircraft, or an aircraft being developed as a model aircraft." Even if the rules hold up under this law, it is not all doom and gloom for drones. The FAA rules could have been much more stringent, and in general they do make sense. Brian Benchoff walks through the regulation, comparing the new rules to the FAA's existing pilot rules, and juxtaposing the threat drones make to full-size aircraft in flight with those risks associated with bird strikes.
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FAA Drone Rules May Already Be Outlawed By Congress

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  • Waiting... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Seng ( 697556 ) on Monday December 21, 2015 @03:01PM (#51160365)

    Waiting for the FAA to ban birds from flying around helos and airplanes...

  • We'll see (Score:5, Insightful)

    by willoughby ( 1367773 ) on Monday December 21, 2015 @03:04PM (#51160377)

    I can remember when the Feds wanted everyone with a CB radio to have a license, too.

    • Re:We'll see (Score:4, Informative)

      by JWSmythe ( 446288 ) <jwsmytheNO@SPAMjwsmythe.com> on Monday December 21, 2015 @03:11PM (#51160427) Homepage Journal

      The FCC almost got their way with the the GMRS radios. I suspect almost everyone who has bought a FRS/GMRS radio never bothered to get the GRMS license. I got mine just to say I have it.

      • Re: We'll see (Score:4, Informative)

        by Albanach ( 527650 ) on Monday December 21, 2015 @03:22PM (#51160521) Homepage

        This is totally different. The linked article even explains it

        Following the link, it tells us that model aircraft to which the rule applies are defined as "unmanned aircraft ... Flown within line of sight".

        As i understood it, the new FAA rule applies to drones capable of being flown outside the pilot's line of sight. Therefore this law is irrelevant as to whether or not the FAA can regulate, since it covers a different type of aircraft.

        • Re: We'll see (Score:4, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 21, 2015 @03:29PM (#51160577)

          Negative, the FAA is apply their new registration rule to EVERY model aircraft whether it's a quadcopter, a helicopter, or a balsa plane. If it weighs more than 0.55 pounds, flies, and is remotely or autonomously controlled they want it registered. Flying a model aircraft out of LOS is against the rules. If the registration allowed for beyond LOS operation, less enthusiasts would be upset about it.

        • Re: We'll see (Score:5, Informative)

          by Guspaz ( 556486 ) on Monday December 21, 2015 @03:35PM (#51160651)

          The FAA rules are exactly the opposite of what you understand:

          https://www.faa.gov/regulation... [faa.gov]

          Operational Limitations

          - Visual line-of-sight (VLOS) only; the unmanned aircraft must remain
          within VLOS of the operator or visual observer.
          - At all times the small unmanned aircraft must remain close enough to
          the operator for the operator to be capable of seeing the aircraft with
          vision unaided by any device other than corrective lenses.

          • That's helpful clarification, since the Rule links to the actual codification which the original article seems to misread, deliberately or

            So the linked article says "The Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration may not promulgate any rule or regulation regarding a model aircraft, or an aircraft being developed as a model aircraft" (Did you notice the absence of a period at the end of their quote?)

            And the Public Law referenced in the FAA Rule actually says:

            SEC. 336. SPECIAL RULE FOR MODEL AIRCRAF

            • http://www.modelaircraft.org/ [modelaircraft.org] Looks like model plane pilots don't need to register then.
              • If it's being flown within their guidelines AND as part of their programming.

                That likely means as part of events scheduled by that organization. Simply being a member and following their guidelines wouldn't exempt you.

            • So the rule which the original article thinks would prevent the FAA from regulating actually says that it only applies to model aircraft flown as part of a nationwide community's programming.

              No, it doesn't. Try re-reading it.

              It says "in accordance with..." the safety guidelines of... That means "following the saftety rules of". It doesn't say it has to be "part of" a nationwide program, only that you have to follow a national hobby group's safety rules.

              • That doesn't matter. The FAA's angle is in "Federal Aviation Administration may not promulgate any rule or regulation regarding a model
                aircraft, or an aircraft being developed as a model aircraft"
                They say they can still create rules that apply to all aircraft, model or not. Nowhere do they say this new rule applies to model aircraft. They say it applies to all unmanned aircraft of a certain weight, there is just no exception for model aircraft.

        • by lgw ( 121541 )

          Amazon is crowded with Star-Wars related RC flying toys right now, from a Millennium Falcon quad-copter to a really cool X-Wing RC airplane (with ducted fans, so it's safer then normal RC planes with props).

          All these toys should be registered as drones under the new rules. It's total nonsense.

          • Amazon is crowded with Star-Wars related RC flying toys right now, from a Millennium Falcon quad-copter to a really cool X-Wing RC airplane (with ducted fans, so it's safer then normal RC planes with props).

            All these toys should be registered as drones under the new rules. It's total nonsense.

            I can see Disney lobbying hard on this. And when Disney lobby the US government listens.

        • This is totally different. The linked article even explains it

          Following the link, it tells us that model aircraft to which the rule applies are defined as "unmanned aircraft ... Flown within line of sight".

          As i understood it, the new FAA rule applies to drones capable of being flown outside the pilot's line of sight. Therefore this law is irrelevant as to whether or not the FAA can regulate, since it covers a different type of aircraft.

          What about "unwomanned" aircraft?

      • by hawguy ( 1600213 )

        The FCC almost got their way with the the GMRS radios. I suspect almost everyone who has bought a FRS/GMRS radio never bothered to get the GRMS license. I got mine just to say I have it.

        Once dual FRS/GMRS radio blister packs started being sold at big box retailers, GMRS licensing was effectively ended for those shared bands. Even if consumers paid attention to the licensing requirements (they don't), no one is going to buy a $90 license for a $30 set of radios.

        Fortunately for GMRS license holders, there are still GMRS-only frequencies that aren't polluted with the FRS shared frequencies.

    • by Max_W ( 812974 )
      I remember in my parts in 90s it was obligatory to carry a kind of radio license for a mobile phone.
    • I can remember when the Feds wanted everyone with a CB radio to have a license, too.

      Just wait, there will be license and registration for shoes as well. And in case anyone thinks theres a handy loophole, virtually every city will have bylaws against going barefoot as well due to 'liability issues'.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 21, 2015 @03:10PM (#51160415)

    If the FAA model aircraft database is public, then what's to stop someone local from looking up your name, address and registration number and sticking that on their model aircraft instead of their own name ?

    That way, they can fly in a reckless manner and if their aircraft crashes, it's an innocent person the authorities are going to be looking for.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Up until now, I've been saying that the FAA's registration isn't much different than the FCC's licensing requirements. But this is the part where the difference between the FAA's registration and the FCC's licensing are substantial, and it requires the FAA to rethink things to make it work.

      I have a ham radio license. With just my callsign, you can get my name and last-registered address. It is my current home address, as I've kept my license up to date. Now, I won't post my callsign, lest I end up registere

      • by fred911 ( 83970 )

        Oh no. Whatever shall I do?

        Just go here: http://www.arrl.org/news/fcc-p... [arrl.org] Looks like the FCC is trying to protect operator license privacy.

        • Looks like the FCC is trying to protect operator license privacy.

          Nonsense. The FCC has stated flat out that it will not hide the operator license data for current licensees. The only accommodation to the privacy of amateur licensees is that they can now use a post office box instead of the physical address of their station on the station license application. I know about this because I have had a parole officer take her license exam at one of my sessions and she needed to be sure that her physical address wasn't on file for the safety of her family.

          Perhaps if you actual

  • Yeah, except (Score:4, Informative)

    by OverlordQ ( 264228 ) on Monday December 21, 2015 @03:17PM (#51160461) Journal

    That 2002 law saying they can't create regulations on model aircraft also have this stipulation:

    the aircraft is operated in accordance with a community-based
    set of safety guidelines and within the programming
    of a nationwide community-based organization

    Considering the whole reason these new regs were passed were because idiots weren't following safety guidelines, makes it a moot point. If the aircraft aren't being operated in accordance w/ safety guidelines the FAA is free to regulate the hell out of model aircraft.

    • by bigpat ( 158134 )

      That 2002 law saying they can't create regulations on model aircraft also have this stipulation:

      the aircraft is operated in accordance with a community-based
      set of safety guidelines and within the programming
      of a nationwide community-based organization

      Considering the whole reason these new regs were passed were because idiots weren't following safety guidelines, makes it a moot point. If the aircraft aren't being operated in accordance w/ safety guidelines the FAA is free to regulate the hell out of model aircraft.

      good find... so there simply needs to be a nationwide community-based organization that has a fee cheaper than $5 and some set of rules to follow and people are covered.

      • The Nationwide Not Car Insurance Company By The Same Name Community Safety Guidelines:

        1) Don't be a dick
        2) Do not through inaction allow your remote craft to be a dick.
        3) Make sure there is nothing on your craft that can be linked back to you in case of accident.

        Oh, did you mean safety for OTHERS and not your own legal safety? Should have said so explicitly then!

        • by bigpat ( 158134 )

          More like the AMA rules I was thinking... Make membership $4:

          Academy of Model Aeronautics National Model Aircraft Safety Code
          Effective January 1, 2014
          A. GENERAL: A model aircraft is a non-human-carrying aircraft capable of sustained flight in the atmosphere. It may not exceed limitations of this code and is
          intended exclusively for sport, recreation, education and/or competition. All model flights must be conducted in accordance with this safety code and any
          additional rules specific to the flying site.
          1. M

  • by alzoron ( 210577 ) on Monday December 21, 2015 @03:19PM (#51160489) Journal

    Do you have to register a model dirigible? A dirigible could weigh nothing. Weight is not the same as mass.

    • No, they're exactly the same. They dont weigh planes by subtracting how much lift the wings generate, so they wouldn't 'weigh' a dirigible with it's lighter-than-air ballast in it.

    • Only if is says TRUMP on the side. It's part of an evil terrorist network.
    • The official definition of weight is that it excludes buoyancy- the weight of an object does not change when the tide comes in. So while weight and mass are slightly different concepts, they are defined such that on earth at msl, an object of 1 gram mass is also 1 gram weight. Obviously on the moon the weight would be lower.

  • by AndyKron ( 937105 ) on Monday December 21, 2015 @03:21PM (#51160507)
    I already got a letter from my flying club saying to hold off on registration. Here's the AMA website report: http://amablog.modelaircraft.o... [modelaircraft.org]
  • by sandbagger ( 654585 ) on Monday December 21, 2015 @03:22PM (#51160525)

    A short while ago a drone backed out a few city blocks in California after touching power lines. Unlike fixed wing remote controlled aircraft, drones can take off anywhere including street corners. This, of course means they can come down nearby

    -- Into traffic
    -- Powerlines
    -- Descend vertically into telephony/power equipment, thus bypassing fences.

    No one is saying that these are deliberate but accidents do happen and like your driver's licence helps pay for public education regarding the rules of the road, the potential for error, mistakes and oversight means that there's a public good in ensuring safe navigation of the skies. Someone above said that people could therefore could fake your ID at an accident -- well I think the odds of that happening are small relative to the amount of regular accidents that will happen.

    Of course people will stomp and yell about 'muh freedumbs' but these things will eventually -- by accident -- cause traffic accidents by uncontrolled descents and so having the infrastructure ready to ensure that people get a modicum of training is hardly the end of the world.

    • Unlike fixed wing remote controlled aircraft, drones can take off anywhere including street corners.

      It's not like fixed wing RC planes need a lot of runway.

      Or any at all, in fact [youtube.com].

    • A short while ago a drone backed out a few city blocks in California after touching power lines. Unlike fixed wing remote controlled aircraft, drones can take off anywhere including street corners. This, of course means they can come down nearby

      -- Into traffic
      -- Powerlines
      -- Descend vertically into telephony/power equipment, thus bypassing fences.

      Kites have caused far worse outages than a few city blocks. People have been electrocuted to death on account of shoes thrown in power lines. Auto accidents daily lead to power outages even though driving is a regulated activity.

      No one is saying that these are deliberate but accidents do happen and like your driver's licence helps pay for public education regarding the rules of the road, the potential for error, mistakes and oversight means that there's a public good in ensuring safe navigation of the skies.

      I believe promulgation of law based on specific incidents and "feelings" is not in the public good. There must be fact based statistical account of actual harms. All proposed solutions must be merit based considering harms imposed by the solution as well as evidence of effective

    • ...and there it is. Fear makes us enact new, stupid laws which restrict freedoms, and on and on it goes, forever. I especially love how you call them "feedumbs", as if it were something that only stupid people care about. You and your fucking Trump supporters are ruining this country. Please, die in a fire.
    • A short while ago a drone backed out a few city blocks in California after touching power lines. Unlike fixed wing remote controlled aircraft, drones can take off anywhere including street corners.

      So what you're saying is that you have absolutely no idea what you're talking about.

      https://youtu.be/S3Ho3qE9Tys [youtu.be]

  • Model = a) small exact copy, b) preliminary work that serves as a plan, c) testing version.

    Drones have cameras, models do not.

    • by DaHat ( 247651 )

      Drones have cameras, models do not.

      Says who?

      As one example: http://www.modelairplanenews.c... [modelairplanenews.com]

    • That's an interesting definition. Here's the definition in the law, of what the FAA may not regulate:

        A model aircraft is a non-human-carrying aircraft capable of sustained flight in the atmosphere, intended exclusively for sport, recreation, education and/or competition

    • Drones have cameras, models do not.

      Please cite your source for that definition. Once you get done with that, please point out anywhere in the new DoT rule that the words "drone" or "camera" are even being used anyway. You have no idea what you're talking about.

  • Sounds like a perfect time to register all birds.

    Because of course, making broad-based laws because of incredibly rare events is always a good idea! /sarc off

  • Not really news (Score:4, Interesting)

    by russotto ( 537200 ) on Monday December 21, 2015 @04:36PM (#51161117) Journal

    We evil drone operators have known about Section 336 for a long time. It's not actually the only thing wrong with the current rules, but its a major one. The FAA asserts that "model aircraft" are included in the category of "aircraft" covered by pre-2012 regulations, and therefore they can regulate according to them and 336 doesn't apply. This is dubious already. But it's even more dubious when you find that

    1) All "aircraft" must be registered, by statute and by regulation, already.
    2) All "aircraft" require a airman's certificate to operate or to repair, again by statute and regulation.
    3) All "aircraft" except helicopters, by regulation, are required to stay above 500 feet except on takeoff and landing.

    Which means that model aircraft have been flown completely illegally for the entire time the FAA has been in existence. This interpretation seems absurd, hence the FAAs claim about "model aircraft" being covered under "aircraft" must be wrong. Either that or it's time to paint a little Jolly Roger on all the models.

    • by bongey ( 974911 )
      commit comment:"added FAA reality distortion field for legal loophole , Dijkstra probably hates me. "
      if(model_aircraft_weight>250.0 && model_aircraft_weight>24948) // makes perfect sense now
      goto must_register;
      goto no_register;
      • by bongey ( 974911 )
        commit comment:"Fixed FAA reality distortion field for legal loophole , Dijkstra still hates me. "
        if(model_aircraft_weight>250.0f || model_aircraft_weight>24948).0f) // even better now
        goto must_register;
        goto no_register;
        • by bongey ( 974911 )
          commit comment:"Fixed again FAA reality distortion field for legal loophole , Dijkstra still hates me. "
          if(model_aircraft_weight>250.0f || model_aircraft_weight>24948.0f) // even better now
          goto must_register;
          goto no_register;
  • Any ideas how FAA's own interpretation of the "special rule" for model aircraft would allow them to continue with drone registration?

    https://www.faa.gov/uas/media/... [faa.gov]

    The only out they seem to grant to themselves is general regulation non specific to model aircraft.

  • It's a real aircraft with a real utility and purpose. I don't see how the rules would apply in most situations.
    • by bongey ( 974911 )
      The FAA is saying "model aircraft" are also "aircraft" at the same time, thus must be registered if it is a "aircraft" greater than 250g and a "model aircraft" less than 55lbs.
      Law says 55lbs, the FAA pulled 250g out of there ass.
      The FAA came up with 250g by doing a point mass free-fall force equation. Didn't you know a solid metal ball and balsa model aircraft fall at the same rate with equal force?
      Also see how the FAA suddenly redefined "model aircraft" and changed to say you need to register it. See
  • It means "come and take it". Good luck gripping those star systems tighter, dumbasses.
  • Given that the workforce is shrinking because birth rates didn't match the retiring population numbers, any profession which keeps its numbers is increasing in percentage of the workforce.

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