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The future of the recreational sUAS

shane05

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The purpose of this post is not to start a flame war between the "drone police" and those who complain about the "drone police". I would just like to see a civil conversation regarding the changes that are all but certain to come to recreational drone operations. I chose this forum because many if not most of the members here would be affected by any changes to the rules for recreational flying.

Currently, recreational sUAS operations are covered under section 336 - decades-old rules meant to govern the use of model aircraft. The available aircraft at the time section 336 was written were relatively expensive, had a steep learning curve and were owned and flown by few. Prior to modern drones, most people who got into model aircraft flying were passionate enough about it that they researched the hobby, understood the rules, most joined the AMA and/or local clubs and learned to fly by working with more experienced pilots.

Enter the modern sUAS. So technologically advanced the average 5 year-old could be taught to fly one in a few minutes. Relatively inexpensive. Very accessible - just swing by Target and choose a model. Incredible capabilities - seriously, 3+ mile range out of the box.

These were clearly not the aircraft the writers of section 336 had in mind. These are clearly not the pilots they had in mind either. Before the proliferation of cheap, advanced fpv, long range, super-easy to fly drones, model aircraft were never much of a concern. They were generally flown in established locations by people who knew what they were doing. Pilots of manned aircraft had little need for concern. The average person could go their whole life and not encounter a model aircraft unless they wanted to. Well, things changed virtually overnight.

Now, drones are everywhere. Most of the people who own them seem to have no clue as to the very limited rule set that governs their recreational use. Restricted airspace? What's that got to do with me? The manufacturer advertises a 3 mile range and you think I'm going to listen to your VLOS bs? I think I can hit 5 miles with this mod, I saw it on youtube.

I noticed something the other day while referring someone to the FAA's DroneZone website. It could just be that I never noticed it before but the wording caught my attention. When referring to the Part 107 portal, they reference recreational and professional drones. When referencing the section 336 portal they specifically state it's for model aircraft. Again, right now it may be semantics and I'm just reading into something that's not there but I do believe that eventually all modern sUASs will fall under Part 107. It will undoubtedly still differentiate recreational and commercial use with different rules and requirements but I believe some kind of training and certification will be required for both. I'm thinking something like the watercraft training requirements we currently have. Personally, I think that would be great as it would require a demonstration of some level of understanding and competence before wandering into the national airspace. All I can say is enjoy the wild west era of drones while you can. I don't believe it will last.

What do you think?
 
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Reactions: sar104
I think that's a pretty accurate assessment. I've wondered whether the term "model aircraft" might be more strictly defined in order to differentiate sUAS from classical model aircraft. Either way, I agree that there is no way, in the US, that the explosion of use of UAVs is going to remain largely exempt from regulation, whether or not they are recreational.
 
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