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FAA’s registration program will apply to more than drones

By Prentiss Findlay, The Post and Courier

More than 500,000 drones are expected to be given as gifts this holiday season. Only the heavier models weighing more than a half-pound fully loaded must be registered with the government.

What do you think?
Do you think radio-controlled model aircraft should be registered with the FAA just like drones?

Yes, they should all be registered with the FAA if they meet the weight limit.

No, radio-controlled hobby airplanes have been around for a long time and should be exempt from registration.

I have no strong opinion.

But longtime hobbyists who fly radio-controlled planes and helicopters that meet the FAA weight threshold for registration are also affected. And many of them don’t like it.

“It baffles me as to why they would want to hit a hobby group,” said Ed Yeash of Summerville, president of the Charleston RC Society.

“We deserve a better break than what the FAA has given us because we are responsible modelers,” Yeash said. “Responsible people will fly where they are supposed to fly.”

Charleston RC Society is a member of the Academy of Model Aeronautics representing more than 180,000 amateur radio-controlled flight enthusiasts nationwide. The academy and the local club are urging members to postpone registering their model aircraft with the government while the hobbyists challenge the new FAA requirement. The organization is pursuing “all legal and political remedies” to FAA regulations it describes as “burdensome and unnecessary.”

The Academy of Model Aeronautics has a pilot and aircraft registration system for its members, which in the organization’s opinion, accomplishes the safety and accountability objectives of the new FAA registration system.

Hobbyists who fly remote-controlled drones and scale-model aircraft face a new regulation requiring them to register with the FAA. A DJI Phantom 3 drone is flown during a drone demonstration at a farm and winery, on potential use for board members of the National Corn Growers in June in Cordova, Md.
Enlarge Hobbyists who fly remote-controlled drones and scale-model aircraft face a new regulation requiring them to register with the FAA. A DJI Phantom 3 drone is flown during a drone demonstration at a farm and winery, on potential use for board members of the National Corn Growers in June in Cordova, Md. AP/Alex Brandon
Club member Richard White of Ladson said he worried that controversy about hobby drones possibly being used as spy devices or posing a threat to public safety would result in them being outlawed. His quadcopter drone cost $1,000.

“I think the FAA has done this to quell the fears of the public,” he said.

The new law requiring FAA registration applies to hobbyist “unmanned aerial systems” weighing slightly more than a half-pound (250 grams) on takeoff but less than 55 pounds. Violators could receive stiff fines and even jail time. Recreational fliers will be required to have their FAA registration certificate with them. Their aircraft must be marked with the registration number.

The FAA opened its registration for unmanned aerial systems on Monday. Owners who purchased their radio-controlled aircraft prior to Monday have 60 days to register. For others, registration is required prior to operation. The $5 registration fee will be refunded for early birds who register using a credit card in the first month. An applicant must be at least 13 years old, the FAA says.

“Registration helps us ensure safety — for you, others on the ground, and manned aircraft. UAS, or unmanned aerial systems, pose new security and privacy challenges and must be traceable in the event of an incident,” the FAA says.

Drones and radio-controlled planes and helicopters weighing less than 0.55 pounds are not affected. That includes many of the drones on store shelves that typically retail for less than $100, the FAA says.

The FAA currently authorizes the use of unmanned aircraft systems for commercial purposes on a case-by-case basis.

Jon Patterson, owner of Flyover Systems in Mount Pleasant, said he uses high-end drones as a tool for his aerial photography, videography and mapping business.

“There needs to be something in place. You are flying something that could cause damage. How much, depends. Just like driving a car or owning a weapon,” he said.

FAA officials are hoping that hobby UAS registration will make drone operators more attuned to safety. Registration will make it easier for authorities to track down anyone involved in a drone crash or incident, the FAA said.

Rules now in place restrict hobbyists from flying above 400 feet. And they must stay at least 5 miles away from an airport.

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Mt. Pleasant, SC, 29464-4048 USA
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