Busting Myths about the FAA and Unmanned Aircraft

A good link to some real information — from the source.

I wrote about “drones” or “UAVs” in two recent blog posts:

The issue is rather polarized, with most pilots and people on the ground wanting more regulation and most drone/UAV operators wanting less. One reader nitpicked over my use of the word “drone” and comparison to radio controlled helicopter — as if one radio-controlled flying object is that much different from another.

If any flying object hits an aircraft in flight or falls from a sky onto someone’s head, it’s going to do some serious damage.

FAA LogoThe FAA, which, like most government agencies, operates so slowly it often seems as if it’s moving backwards, finally woke up and published an update on its website that clears up any “myths” surrounding the use of unmanned aircraft or UAS. Titled “Busting Myths about the FAA and Unmanned Aircraft,” it lists 7 myths and the corresponding facts for each.

Two myth/fact pairs stand out:

Myth #1: The FAA doesn’t control airspace below 400 feet

Fact—The FAA is responsible for the safety of U.S. airspace from the ground up. This misperception may originate with the idea that manned aircraft generally must stay at least 500 feet above the ground

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard people tell me that the FAA has no control over airspace near the ground. The number of feet from the ground that the FAA control begins varies from 50 to 150 to 300 to 400. These numbers seem arbitrary to me. The truth of the matter is, FAA-regulated airspace begins in the U.S. at the ground.

Myth #3: Commercial UAS operations are a “gray area” in FAA regulations.

Fact—There are no shades of gray in FAA regulations. Anyone who wants to fly an aircraft—manned or unmanned—in U.S. airspace needs some level of FAA approval. Private sector (civil) users can obtain an experimental airworthiness certificate to conduct research and development, training and flight demonstrations.  Commercial UAS operations are limited and require the operator to have certified aircraft and pilots, as well as operating approval….

Flying model aircraft solely for hobby or recreational reasons doesn’t require FAA approval, but hobbyists must operate according to the agency’s model aircraft guidance, which prohibits operations in populated areas.

Did you get that? Even hobbyists are prohibited from flying their radio controlled model aircraft over populated areas. That includes large gatherings of people for outdoor events.

If you’re interested in this topic, I urge you to read this article on the FAA website. It should help you realize that there’s really no “debate” about this — the rules are quite clear.

2 thoughts on “Busting Myths about the FAA and Unmanned Aircraft

  1. My concern with your blog postings regarding pilots and their “drones” is that you tend to FauxNews the start of your articles. Pilots and “drone” pilots as ‘more regulations vs less regulations’, making it sound like its a good vs evil debate.

    First off, “drone” pilots don’t want any less regulations than real pilots. I can safely say that we’d rather not see a multimillion dollar aircraft coming down because a “drone” caused it by getting lodged in the engine or hitting the cabin windshield on a small single engine plane. We also don’t see any complaints from “drone” pilots regarding airworthiness of their aircraft and demonstrating their piloting skills if it means they’re cleared to fly.

    The “myths” discussed in the FAA document seems to stem from creative individuals that are looking to justify their new purchase and use of these “drones” commercially. Most cite the hobbyist docket that suggests how remote control pilots should behave with their remote controlled aircraft (400 AGL, not over crowds, not within 3 miles of an airport, etc). Still, some insist on claiming the FAA has no rules regarding the sky since they can’t enforce it and the docket is a suggestion, not law. These people will always try and exploit any loophole in anything that interests them.

    What us “drone” pilots want is clear cut commercial regulations regarding the operation of our aircraft. What we have now is a hobbyist docket that outlines some ‘common sense’ rules regarding remotely controlled aircraft (or “drones”), not to exceed 400ft AGL, not to endanger life or property, not within 3 miles of an airport without contacting ATC, but not commercial applications. The fact that the FAA is slow in deciding how to regulate the commercial aspect, and only the commercial aspect of “drone” operation, leads me to believe that a special interest group involving for-hire helicopter pilots is actively financing the FAA to keep commercial operations grounded. Presumably to cast public doubts on the safety of “drones”, as well as provide these for-hire pilots with their livelihood.

    • “FauxNews”? Not sure what you’re referring to.

      The fact that the FAA is slow in deciding how to regulate the commercial aspect, and only the commercial aspect of “drone” operation, leads me to believe that a special interest group involving for-hire helicopter pilots is actively financing the FAA to keep commercial operations grounded.

      Seriously? What other conspiracy theories do you support?

      Everyone is entitled to their opinion. Mine is based on the facts.

      Tread carefully…I’ve already had one complaint about your comment; an inflammatory response will not appear here.

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