YOU can help! FAA fixing to put the Whammy on RC plane clubs, drones

While dropping in at the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park in Mobile on a Wednesday, Saturday or Sunday morning, you are likely to hear the roar of RC aircraft of all sorts. The park, just off the bow of the retired Gato-class diesel boat USS Drum (SS-228), is home to the Lower Alabama RC club, a group that has been around since 1975.

The LARC Club. The shot was taken from the Drum’s bow on Saturday by moi. In short, an RC aircraft strip. No, the MiG is not an RC plane.

The hobbyists of the LARC club, which requires membership in the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) and to comply with the AMA Safety Code, swoop and swirl their aircraft deftly over the uninhabited marshland, remaining well under 400 feet AGL. They hurt no one, damage nothing except their own planes on accident, and add to the wonder of the park, which is often filled with wide-eyed youth visiting the ships and aircraft displays.

If a kid sees an RC Spitfire or Corsair zipping around while there, that could spark a life-long interest or career in aviation– and with the future of a massive increase in drone flight very real, that is a good thing.

The thing is, the Federal Aviation Administration has a proposed regulation that would require almost every drone, quadcopter and RC aircraft in the sky to broadcast its location over the Internet at all times. Sound innocent, right? However, the rule would probably wipe out the hobby that has been around for generations.

As noted by ArsTechnica: 

In many cases, it may not even be possible for people to upgrade their existing aircraft to the new standard. The FAA rule states that a compliant drone needs to have a serial number that was issued by the device’s manufacturer in compliance with the new rules. Yet many RC aircraft are built by small companies who never intended to get into the commercial drone business. They might not have the technical resources to comply with the new standards or the legal resources to get FAA approval.

The FAA aims to allow a few RC/drone airfields like the one in Mobile run by “community-based organizations” where the rules could be relaxed on hobby-built craft, but that exemption would only be for a year.

After that, the agency thinks everyone will just kinda hang it up:

At the end of that 12-month period, no new applications for FAA-recognized identification areas would be accepted. After that date, the number of FAA-recognized identification areas could therefore only remain the same or decrease. Over time, the FAA anticipates that most UAS without remote identification will reach the end of their useful lives or be phased out. As these numbers dwindle, and as compliance with remote identification requirements becomes cheaper and easier, the number of UAS that need to operate only at FAA-recognized identification areas would likely drop significantly.

Public comments are open until 11:59pm on Monday. Let them know what you think if you have a minute. 

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