FAA Reminds Users That It Regulates Model Airplanes

 - June 30, 2014, 4:40 PM

In a bid to dispel apparent confusion over the limits of its regulatory authority over unmanned aerial systems, the FAA on June 23 reminded users that it does possess the authority to regulate radio-controlled model airplanes. Publishing its interpretation of the statutory special rules for model aircraft in the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, the agency said, “The guidance comes after recent incidents involving the reckless use of unmanned model aircraft near airports and involving large crowds of people. Compliance with these rules for model aircraft operators has been required since the act was signed on Feb. 14, 2012, and the explanation provided does not alter that fact. The FAA is issuing this notice to provide clear guidance to model operators on the ‘dos and don’ts’ of flying safely in accordance with the act and to answer many of the questions it has received regarding the scope and application of the rules.” The FAA restated the law’s definition of “model aircraft,” including requirements that they not interfere with manned aircraft, be flown within sight of the operator and be operated only for hobby or recreational purposes. The agency also explained that model aircraft operators flying within five miles of an airport must notify the airport operator and ATC tower. The agency reaffirmed that the law’s model aircraft provisions apply only to hobby or recreation operations and do not authorize the use of model aircraft for commercial operations. While last week’s notice was immediately effective, the agency welcomes public comments until July 22, 2014.