USA Rules for Model Aircraft (Planes, Drones, Helicopters, Etc.)

(Originally posted on /archives/10835)

Short Story

  1. Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) members may continue to follow AMA’s safety guidelines, even if in some cases those conflict with the FAA’s rules.
  2. All model aircraft users, with radio controlled aircraft over 0.55 lbs. (aeroplanes, quadcopters, helicopters, drones, etc.), need to register with the FAA at https://registermyuas.faa.gov/ .
By U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Daniel J. McLain [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Background

It’s called “UAS” registration, but all model airplanes over 0.55 lbs. come under this umbrella.

Congress specifically excluded the FAA from regulating model airplanes flown by AMA members, as part of the “2012 FAA Modernization and Reform Act“, section 336, which is law.

No matter, FAA officials saw YouTube videos of people doing dangerous things with flying toys, and proceeded to impose the new regulations on everyone.

Recently, the FAA agreed that AMA members are allowed to follow the AMA’s Safety Guidelines, even if those conflict with the FAA Safety Guidance. That’s consistent with section 336.

What part was a concern? The no flying over 400 feet part. There are model airplane competitive events that would be unflyable under that rule, and there are model airplane competitive events that would be more-dangerous under that rule. Also: there are model aircraft flying events that are actually held at airports (famously: Joe Nall Week) .

You Must Follow This Ever-changing List of Temporary Flight Restrictions (traditionally communicated as NOTAMS)

AMA Academy of Model Aeronautics National Model Aircraft Safety Code

FAA Safety Guidance

  • I will fly below 400 feet
  • I will fly within visual line of sight
  • I will be aware of FAA airspace requirements: www.faa.gov/go/uastfr
  • I will not fly directly over people
  • I will not fly over stadiums and sports events
  • I will not fly near emergency response efforts such as fires
  • I will not fly near aircraft, especially near airports
  • I will not fly under the influence

AMA FAA FAQ

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