The gang that can’t shoot straight, misfires and misses again.
If you’ve gotten into drone racing, whether you fly for hobby or not, the FAA confirmed to me today that if you fly FPV – first person view – you will be required to get a drone pilot’s license and comply with the new Part 107. Below is my question and the FAA’s response:
Q: Could you confirm whether hobby FPV flyers will have to get a Part 107 remote pilot certificate after August 29 when the new drone rules go into effect?
A: Under the FAA’s current interpretation of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft, modelers who want to fly their drones using first-person-view systems must operate under Part 107, which requires a Remote Pilot Certificate. The operator also would need to comply with any other applicable Part 107 requirement.
The FAA’s response indicates that it may review this requirement in the future, but starting Monday Part 107 is the law applicable to FPV flyers. According to the FAA: “The FAA solicited comments to its interpretation of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft and received over 33,000 comments, including comments on the use of FPV. The FAA is considering the issues raised by those comments and plans to issue a final interpretation of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft that reflects its consideration of the comments.”
This article was written by John Goglia, probably the most experienced reporter covering drones. As you can imagine it has generated quite a thread. So John added some clarity:
Part 107 applies to hobbyists who do not meet each and every requirement of Part 101, which includes FPV flyers, those who fly or hobby or recreation but are not flying under a CBO and anyone who doesn’t follow the letter of 101.
As best as I can figure, by making people flying FPV fly under Part 107, the FAA is able to ensure (insist? request?) that there also be a sighted observer.
But here’s the thing. Right now as I write, on August 24 2016, Part 107 does not yet exist.
Yet the FAA allowed drone racing on Governors Island in New York. Not only were admissions charged and cash prizes awarded to the winners – which has to satisfy any and all known definitions of a commercial undertaking, the event was streamed on ESPN3. And most of the stream was the FPV feed.
I don’t know it for a fact, but I am willing to bet my lunch money that none of the racers held a manned pilots license. I am also willing to bet that the event organizers did not have a 333, or a COA allowing unlicensed pilots to fly FPV. What we all do know for a fact is that the FAA did not shut them down – even though the event was announced in April – 4 full months before the event and long before the announcement of Part 107.
An interesting comment popped up on the thread to the Forbes article:
John- I have met personally with the FAA chief counsel’s office and discussed this issue at great length. While I appreciate you writing this article, I think it is misleading due to the omission of a key fact: FPV flying has never been allowed under the hobbyist exemption. So all the FPV pilots/racers flying for the past year should have required 333 exemptions. So nothing is changing on Monday. The FAA has chosen not to take enforcement action against the FPV racing community to date, but it is entirely at their discretion. And anyone who has dealt with the FAA knows that lack of enforcement by the FAA does not imply they approve an activity or prevent them from later taking action, even if they have been clearly aware of an activity. Outdoor FPV racing to date has gone on only because of the grace of the FAA, and it will continue to do so after Monday.