Drone Laws Threaten Hobbyists

Recent laws proposed by the Federal Aviation Administration have hobbyists worried that RC flying will disappear.


Photo Courtesy of Joseph Grosjean

A scratch built RC airplane used for park flying.

Joseph Grosjean, Editor of Photography

“Drone Strike in Yemen Hits Wedding Convoy, Killing 11.” This New York Times article and many others with the same negative tone towards military drones have caused quite a stir in recent news. The public has cried out to the government to limit the use of these military killing machines and to ban them in the United States.

But what about the people who fly drones for a hobby? Many wish for these to be banned as well mostly on the basis of public safety and privacy. Admittedly there are those out there who would use this technology for evil, but the truth is that most of them just want to fly and make memories.

I will first address the concern of public safety. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) have made a few very clear-cut laws regarding the activity. These are stated in the “Interpretation of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft”. Quite simply, the rules state that you cannot fly within five miles of an airport, you can only fly for recreational purposes, and a few aircraft limits.

The Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) have more rules for people to follow including flying only under 400 feet and not flying above populated areas. These rules thoroughly reduce the risk of an incident, which, as of now, is only one in the United States.

Regarding privacy, it is quite common for pilots to mount cameras on their aircrafts to record beautiful footage from a couple hundred feet off the ground. These cameras range from $10 keychain cameras to $300 GoPro’s, but even the GoPro’s have a hard time capturing faces at the distance and altitude at which they are operated. The only way that a private moment could be captured would be using FPV, a form of flying that includes a separate video transmitter and video goggles to “fly in the cockpit.”

This type of flying is popular and gives people who would not otherwise be pilots the chance to see the world at altitude and control an aircraft. In regards to it being used to stalk, it would be nearly impossible as in an urban area the radio signals that are used in the transmission of the live video feed are reflected and blocked off of buildings creating a loss of signal and, without the video in this situation, the loss of your aircraft.

These drones are nothing more than toys, and they pose no serious threat. Hobbyists also have a right to this hobby as said in the Declaration of Independence. It states that we are “endowed by [our] creator with certain inalienable rights, that are among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” We all have this right to happiness, whether it is finding a job or pursuing a hobby. Building and flying RC aircraft makes many happy and creates memories with the ones we love and no one has the right to take that away.

With many attacks on hobbyists by the public and the FAA, the AMA has taken a stand in defending the hobby. Many have written letters in an attempt to petition the FAA so as to save this fantastic hobby. In the end, only time will tell whether or not it will be allowed to continue to exist and grow.