At the time this article was written, AMA was waiting for the House to pass its version of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act, titled the Aviation Innovation, Reform,
and Reauthorization (AIRR) Act. The House preserves our
voluntary, community-based approach to managing the model
The House bill also provides a clear definition of a
community-based organization and tasks the FAA with
developing a process for recognizing such organizations, both
long-overdue tasks for the agency. Additionally, the bill expands
protections to allow model aircraft to be used as a teaching
tool for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM)
initiatives, as well as aeronautics.
After the House version passes, it will join the Senate version,
SB 2568, and head to the Conference Committee. In the
Conference Committee, the bill might undergo a new round of
revisions and changes.
Eventually the bill will go to another vote in the House and
Senate and will then be signed into law by the president. Please
continue to monitor your email, www.modelaircraft.org/gov,
and information from your club(s). We might ask for your help
in shaping this legislation.
AMA applauds the FAA for making it clear that students can
use UAS, including model aircraft, for educational purposes. For
years, model aircraft have been used as an aid to teach STEM
education without burdensome requirements on teachers and
In recent years, AMA advocated that new regulations for
sUAS not encumber this important educational process and,
most recently, asked Congress to clarify educational use in the
next FAA reauthorization bill.
The AMA strongly believes that model aircraft serve as
aviation’s stepping stone. The late Neil Armstrong, as well
as aviation pioneer Burt Rutan and astronaut Robert “Hoot”
Gibson—both of whom are lifelong AMA members—are just a
few examples of this promising career path. We have no doubt
that STEM education programs across the country will benefit
from improved access to this technology.
Additionally, we are pleased that the FAA has announced
a new drone advisory committee to work on UAS integration
alongside the agency. Because AMA participated in both
the UAS registration task force and the Micro UAS aviation
rulemaking committee, we understand the need for a diverse
set of voices to advise the agency. We believe it is critical for the
hobby community to be well represented. We look forward to
continuing our work with all of the stakeholders to ensure the
safety of our skies.
FAA drone sightings report
In March of this year, the FAA released a new list of 582
“drone sightings” covering the period of August 21, 2015,
through January 31, 2016. This new data followed the release
of 764 sightings in August 2015, covering the period from
November 13, 2014, to August 20, 2015.
We are pleased to see that the FAA more accurately
characterized its recent drone data as “sightings” and “reports”
rather than the more inflammatory terminology that was used
In a continued effort to better understand what’s occurring,
and what role the AMA could play to help advance safe flying,
AMA analyzed the 582 new records. Additionally, we looked at
trends in all of the 1,364 reports made since November 2014.
Similar to our analysis with previous FAA reports, the
majority of the reports are simply sightings. Many of the
sightings seem to involve people flying responsibly and within
the FAA’s current recreational guidelines. Other UAS or drone
sightings in the report appear to be birds or balloons.
It is worth noting that, despite estimates that as many as a
million drones were sold during the 2015 holiday season, the
number of sightings actually decreased. Ongoing educational
campaigns, including “Know Before You Fly,” AMA’s
partnership with retailers such as Best Buy, and the FAA’s “No
Drone Zone” initiative, appear to be having a positive impact—
confirming that education, not regulation, is the best way to
ensure safety in the airspace.
By the time this article is printed, we should have
our complete analysis posted in our blogs and at www.
Public Relations & Government Affairs Director
Waiting for Congress to act
11 Model Aviation JULY 2016