Ground All Drones is a committee of Women Against Military Madness (WAMM) created to address the use of drones, particularly armed drones. Drones are developed worldwide, not only by the U.S. but by other nations as well. In the U.S.unarmed surveillance drones could be used to spy on citizens, a clear violation of our Fourth Amendment Rights. The current focus of this committee is on the use of weaponized drones.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

FAA rules or Common Sense? Another point of view.

In our conversations with people about Killer Drones, the subject of drones for other uses seems to come up quite often. [ed.]

 KEEP CALM: The FAA and sUAVs/Drone Rules UPDATED

Filtering-out the Facts from Fiction & Paranoia (UPDATED 2/15/2015)
From the website
By Jeff Foster 03.14.15
 With the publishing of Jack Nicas and Andy Pasztor's speculative and interpretive article in the Wall Street Journal in the fall of 2014, it seems every news agency, media outlet and publication has totally lost their minds in a fit of hysteria liken to Chicken Little proportions; sparking "end of days" tweets and forum discussions throughout the social mediasphere that has brought on an industry-wide panic akin to Orson Wells' War of the Worlds live broadcast radio play. Let's just stop right there and breathe for a moment - turn off the TV, put down that paper and let's look at some facts... (UPDATED 3/14/2015 with FAA Activities at bottom of article)

If you're new to the sUAV (small Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) and sUAS (small Unmanned Aerial Systems) or "drones" industry and are only reading the headlines today or hearing the rumors and fears of those around you (or on TV) then you probably think that sUAV you bought or were thinking of buying for the holidays is just going to have to sit on the shelf until the FAA gets around to making up the new regulations for the industry.
You might think... but you'd be wrong.

First of all, the FAA can't make laws - only develop guidelines and regulations. The federal government has no authority whatsoever to regulate the operation of remote-controlled model aircraft.

Let's back up a little and look at how the FAA has been kicking the can down the road for several years now:
Since before 2008, there have been the same restrictions and rules in place that the FAA has been clinging too, that has made it nearly impossible for commercial, industrial, agricultural, search and rescue, forest service, firefighters and *law enforcement to get full, proper authorization to use sUAVs in their work. Even the Washington State Department of Transportation had to write up a 27-page report (PDF) on the application process for test vehicles and how it was the main barrier to entry in the industry. *Note that special applications are now available for sUAVs in public service, but they need to be requested and applied/approved by the FAA.

Chris Anderson (Founder/CEO of 3D Robotics) wrote this Regulatory FAQ on his blog DIY Drones back in March of 2008 showing that really, nothing has changed in 8 years!

In as early as 2010, the discussions of the FAA sUAS regulations NPRM (Notice of Proposed Rulemaking) were open for public commenting through mid 2011. These deadlines have been continually extended all the way up thorugh Sept, 2014 - most recently at the request of the AMA (Academy of Model Aeronautics). To be fair, most people didn't know much about the importance of having their voices heard on the subject and the AMA was trying to rally members to speak up and issue their comments.

According to Peter Sachs, Esq. of the Drone Law Journal blog, these have been the FAA's basic standing guidelines/rules, but not directly enforceable laws:
  • Don't fly above 400ft AGL
  • Don't fly within 3 miles of an airport/landing strip
  • Keep you craft within line of sight
  • Don't fly in NOAA zones and obey all TFRs/FRZs (Temporary Flight Restrictions/Flight Restricted Zones)
  • Fly safely (not near pedestrians, wildlife, buildings/property, etc. - common sense)
Again - using common sense and care when you're flying, all of these guidelines should be adhered to for the safety of everyone. Unfortunately, a lot of people either don't know about them or don't care and fly recklessly anyway - which has brought a lot of attention of this industry to the media, which is putting more pressure on the FAA to set standards for enforceable regulations of sUAVs.

Actually, it goes back even further, as you'll see in this Advisory Circular published in 1981: See circular and most of the original article HERE:


UPDATE 1/30/2015: 
"Aerial photographer Raphael Pirker has settled the civil penalty proceeding brought by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration in 2013 concerning his flight of a styrofoam Zephyr II model aircraft (or “drone”) at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville in October 2011.
The $1,100 settlement  “does not constitute an admission of any of the allegations in the case or an admission of any regulatory violation,” Pinker’s attorney Brendan Schulman said in a statement."

So where does that leave the rest of us?

Well, if you ask the FAA, you can basically do anything you want within the guidelines as long as you fly safely and don't fly for payment or commercial purposes.


That's right. According to the FAA website, you can still fly your model aircraft (weighing less than 55lbs) within all the operation limits of the guidelines stated in the Interpretation of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft as long as there's no commercial attachment.

So what does COMMERCIAL PURPOSE have to do with safety?

Good question! 

So - the FAA DOES claim to allow you to apply for special consideration by applying for a Section 333 exemption which requires you first filing for a COA (Certificates of Waiver or Authorization) in which you must first request to get an account for which to access the online application process and you get passed-on to yet another department/entity and it continues... probably best to get some legal assistance on this process and be prepared to wait in the queue.

But since the FAA has allowed exemptions for a handful of film & TV industry professionals, they've come with a lot of restrictions that a smaller company or independent couldn't possibly meet. Some restrictions demand a two-operator UAS, to last less than 30 minutes and remain under 200 feet on a closed set.

Interestingly though, all seven exemption applications for the film companies were awarded through the same law firm and lawyer.

But no word yet on the FAA's acceptance of the hundreds of other applications sent in through the process, such as construction, geological surveying/study and precision agriculture, which has been booming business in Japan for years now.