Lates last week the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) sent out a member communication regarding the need for enforcement of airspace safety.
You may have seen coverage of a hearing on Capitol Hill yesterday about emerging uses for UAS, as well as an FAA report released this week about drone airborne collisions. Some in Washington have responded to these developments by calling for more regulation and blaming hobbyists generally. We’re writing to share with you our position on these issues.
First and foremost, our goal is to strengthen and protect Section 336, also known as the Special Rule for Model Aircraft. This provision allows AMA members who follow a strict set of safety guidelines to continue flying responsibly as we have for decades. Simply being a hobbyist or casual drone user does not qualify one as a 336 operator. Section 336 was never designed to be a get-out-of-jail free card for anyone who wants to fly drones. It only applies to those who fly in accordance with the safety guidelines and within the programming of a nationwide community-based organization like AMA.
Mounting concerns about the effectiveness of Section 336 are unfounded and misdirected. We agree that the issue of drone flyers who are operating carelessly and recklessly needs to be addressed. These operators should be following Part 107, the alternative for legally flying if you’re not an AMA member. The FAA clarifies this position by stating in Part 107 that those who do not “satisfy all of the criteria specified in Section 336 of Public Law 112-95” are required to comply with the hobbyist rules in Part 107. Section 336 operators, like AMA members, are not the problem. We strongly believe these Part 107 violators should be held accountable for their actions and be penalized for breaking the rules.
Lastly, we continue to believe that increased education for new drone flyers is critical. At the end of the day, education, not regulation, is what truly equips individuals to fly responsibly and keep our skies safe. As you know, safety is a high priority for AMA, which is why we have spent decades creating and implementing a robust education program and safety guidelines for our members. We have participated in education efforts for the general public as well, and are hoping to do more of this in 2018.