With the FAA’s new requirements that all drones between .55 and 55 pounds be registered, there has been a lot of concern about how effective this measure will be and if it’s necessary.
(One commenter did point out that .55 pounds is basically two sticks of butter. Is a drone that weighs as much as two sticks of butter a threat?)
The Academy of Model Aeronautics is recommending members hold off on registering their drones for now. On Thursday, the Executive Council of the AMA sent an email to members noting they had approved a plan to “protect our members from unnecessary and burdensome regulations.”
The email notes that the AMA already has a registration system in place, and that the new rules contradict Section 336 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012.
The basic concern here is whether the definition of aircraft includes model aircraft and whether that falls under the authority of the FAA. The is currently litigation pending on this issue, and as such the AMA would like an answer on whether model aircraft are considered aircraft.
The email does note that registration makes sense for commercial purposes and for other types of aircraft, it’s unclear whether model aircraft falls into the same category.
The AMA does note that they’re not advising members to ignore the registration complexly, but rather to hold off until the deadline to register to give the organization time to figure out a plan.
The full email reads as follows :
Dear AMA Members,
Yesterday, the AMA Executive Council unanimously approved an action plan to relieve and further protect our members from unnecessary and burdensome regulations. This plan addresses the recently announced interim rule requiring federal registration of all model aircraft and unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) weighing between 0.55 and 55 pounds.
AMA has long used a similar registration system with our members, which we pointed out during the task force deliberations and in private conversations with the FAA. As you are aware, AMA’s safety program instructs all members to place his or her AMA number or name and address on or within their model aircraft, effectively accomplishing the safety and accountability objectives of the interim rule. AMA has also argued that the new registration rule runs counter to Congress’ intent in Section 336 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, otherwise known as the “Special Rule for Model Aircraft.”
The Council is considering all legal and political remedies to address this issue. We believe that resolution to the unnecessary federal registration rule for our members rests with AMA’s petition before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. This petition, filed in August 2014, asks the court to review the FAA’s interpretation of the “Special Rule for Model Aircraft.” The central issue is whether the FAA has the authority to expand the definition of aircraft to include model aircraft; thus, allowing the agency to establish new standards and operating criteria to which model aircraft operators have never been subject to in the past.
In promulgating its interim rule for registration earlier this week, the FAA repeatedly stated that model aircraft are aircraft, despite the fact that litigation is pending on this very question. The Council believes the FAA’s reliance on its interpretation of Section 336 for legal authority to compel our members to register warrants the Court’s immediate attention to AMA’s petition.
While we continue to believe that registration makes sense at some threshold and for flyers operating outside of a community-based organization or flying for commercial purposes, we also strongly believe our members are not the problem and should not have to bear the burden of additional regulations. Safety has been the cornerstone of our organization for 80 years and AMA’s members strive to be a part of the solution.
As we proceed with this process, we suggest AMA members hold off on registering their model aircraft with the FAA until advised by the AMA or until February 19, the FAA’s legal deadline for registering existing model aircraft.
Holding off on registration will allow AMA time to fully consider all possible options. On a parallel track, it also allows AMA to complete ongoing conversations with the FAA about how best to streamline the registration process for our members.
In the near future, we will also be asking our members to make their voices heard by submitting comments to the FAA’s interim rule on registration. We will follow-up soon with more detailed information on how to do this.
Thank you for your continued support of AMA. We will provide you with more updates as they become available.
The AMA Executive Council
Bob Brown, AMA President
Gary Fitch, AMA Executive Vice President
Andy Argenio, AMA Vice President, District I
Eric Williams, AMA Vice President, District II
Mark Radcliff, AMA Vice President, District III
Jay Marsh, AMA Vice President, District IV
Kris Dixon, AMA Vice President, District V
Randy Cameron, AMA Vice President, District VI
Tim Jesky, AMA Vice President, District VII
Mark Johnston, AMA Vice President, District VIII
Jim Tiller, AMA Vice President, District IX
Lawrence Tougas, AMA Vice President, District X
Chuck Bower, AMA Vice President, District XI
Editor’s Note: Thanks to reader Al for sharing the email with ECN.