The Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) has responded to the Commercial Drone Alliance’s call for a repeal of Section 336 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, which currently prohibits the Federal Aviation Administration from regulating qualifying model aircraft. AMA argues that a repeal would put a strain on the FAA, which is already overloaded with tasks related to unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) integration.
“AMA’s No. 1 priority is the safety of our nation’s skies. Through Section 336, AMA safely manages 200,000 members – as the organization has done for more than eighty years – freeing up scarce FAA resources to advance commercial drone regulations and other priorities,” says Chad Budreau, AMA’s public relations and government affairs director, in a statement. “At the same time, AMA lends its safety expertise to the broader drone community through efforts such as Know Before You Fly.
“Even with AMA managing a portion of the recreational community and funding broader educational efforts, the FAA is still under-resourced to handle the growing surge in commercial drones, Part 107 waiver requests and future rulemakings,” he continues. “Eliminating Section 336 will exacerbate the demand on the agency’s resources, which may have implications for the commercial drone industry and the safety of our skies. Public-private partnerships with experienced community-based organizations like AMA, which are facilitated by Section 336, can be helpful in alleviating strain on the FAA and enhance safety.”
Budreau adds, “Furthermore, model aviation enthusiasts have been the cradle of innovation for both the manned and unmanned communities for decades. Many mistakenly believe drones are a recent innovation. To the contrary, the AMA community has helped to develop and advance the platform since the 1930s. Even today, as drone technology continues to improve, modelers are dreaming up new ways to apply and use this technology every day. Imagine a world where a young Steve Jobs or Henry Ford were restricted from tinkering in their garage. A repeal of Section 336 would be a devastating blow to innovation.”
On Wednesday, the Commercial Drone Alliance announced it is asking Congress to repeal Section 336 and include new language in the 2018 FAA Reauthorization Act to enable the agency to regulate UAS in what the alliance says would be a common-sense way. The independent nonprofit alliance’s members include, among others, CNN, Ford, Project Wing, uAvionix, the National Association of Tower Erectors, SkySpecs and Gryphon Sensors.
The alliance argues that an approach giving preferential treatment to hobbyists has clear and adverse implications for the safety and efficiency of national airspace, public safety, and the efficacy of future UAS traffic management systems.
Budreau notes that, indeed, AMA recognizes that “some tweaks to Section 336 may be needed to clarify who the provision does and does not cover.”
Speaking on whether or not model aircraft should be exempt from future remote identification requirements, he says, “We also recognize that remote identification requirements make sense at an appropriate threshold of weight and capability, such as for more sophisticated drones. That’s why we are actively working with Congress, the manned aviation community and the UAS industry on policy solutions to these challenges within the framework of Section 336.”
Budreau concludes, “While we support commercial drone endeavors, Congress should not allow for-profit companies to dictate legislation abolishing a segment of the hobby with a strong, 80-plus-year safety record. We need to advance drone deliveries in such a way that manned aircraft, commercial drone operators and hobbyists all operate safely and harmoniously together, as manned aviation and model aviation have done for decades. No one group has a greater claim to the nation’s airspace than any other.”