Want your FPV back? Sue the FAA.

by FlyingMonkey | July 14, 2014 | (14) Posted in Tips

Bear with me on this. 

The driving force behind change today, isn't petitions, or good intentions, or even concerns for public safety.  What really changes things, what's shaped our socity more than anythign else, is the power of lawsuits!


Even in the world of RC aviation, we're pressured by the fear of getting taken to court.  Parks ban the operation of rc aircraft because someone might get hurt, and sue the city/county/state.  Events require the participating pilots to be mebers of the AMA so they can be covered by insurance, that might protect them against lawsuits for accidental damage to vehicles or property.  Even the government uses the threats of fines, and court costs as a way to influence the model flying public.


Fortunately in the case of the FAA vs Trappy, we won!  Really, the Federal Judge told the FAA that they had no jurisiction over model aircraft.  In short this meant that all of the RC pilots who wanted to profit from their hobby were free and clear until the FAA went through all of the hoops of public notification, congressional approval and long boring talks with the AMA coming to mutual ground on the topic, or so we thought.

Unfortunately the FAA found a "loophole".  Instead of working with the AMA as they have for decades, or sticking the the intent of congress, and not lumping model aviation in with full scale aviation, they decided to change how they "interpret" the previous regulations.  They wrote up a Letter of Interpretation regarind the special rules for model aviation.  Read it here... http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2014-06-25/pdf/2014-14948.pdf


No, really, read it.  Read it carefully.  Much of the frustration I'm hearing from rc pilots is over the portion regarding FPV.  That's a very small portion of it.  They're mostly focusing on the aspect of the hobby where people are trying to turn something fun, into something they can be financially compensated for.  According to the FAA, this covers everything from a realator using a quadcopter to take pictures of a house they are trying to sell, to a farmer using a model aircraft to check on the condition of his crops, to demonstrators at RC events, getting paid to fly for model manufacturers and distributers.

If businesses were to change their practices to become compliant to this "interpretation" you'd witness the death of that entire industry here in the United States.  Strictly speaking, everytime an employee test flew an aircraft while on duty, he'd be in violation, he, and the company would be subject to legal action from the FAA.  

Enjoy watching Quique fly at SEFF and other events?  Well, next time the FAA just might be there with a cease and desist letter, and a ticket book.


Fear of legal action works.  Or at least the FAA thinks so, since that's the tool they've decided to go with.  They are not working with the RC aviation community to figure out the solution to the exponentially growing hobby of FPV flying.  Or the implimentation of radio equipment that allows a person to fly a model aicraft miles from where they're standing.  Or the improvements in technology that allows a completely novice pilot to direct a quadcopter hundreds of feet into the air, thousands of feet from where they launched from, and with the flip of a switch have it safely bring itself back and land at the original launch point, all without the pilot having any training or skill.


Since the FAA thinks it will work against us, I say we use it against them.  Sue the FAA.


Dozens if not hundred (or more) businesses in the USA will be affected, even with the most liberal interpretation of the FAA's interpretation of the regulations.  GETFPV.com, ReadyMadeRC.com, and many others have built their businesses around the growth of this aspect of the hobby.  They've invested heavily in this technology, and a banning of flying by FPV goggles would be a devastating blow.  They could sue indivdually, or get together and and present a combined force that would be impossible to ignore.


Next up, is the countless individuals and small groups is the folks who just wanted to strap a camera to a slowstick and take pictures for real estate, weddings, etc., but didn't because they were waiting for the FAA to do as they promised.  Almost a decade ago people got together, and asked the FAA to come up with regulations that would allow people to fly model aircraft commercially.  How many businesses could have been created, how much money did these people lose, because the FAA couldn't do their job, and make the airspace available to the US citizens that wanted to share it responsibly?



Check out the dates for these threads. 

There Cannot Be Double Standards


And we'll have fun fun fun till the FAA takes my UAV away!!!


Industry Voice for RC Aerial Photography


RCAPA attended the RTCA Special Committee 203 meeting held at RTCA Headquarters, Wash


The FAA Has Spoken!!!


F Words.... the FAA, the FCC & For-Profit RC/AP



Here's one where they are talking about the promised rule making for "UAV's" the FAA promised.  "Bear with us, we're working for you." (Post 52)

Small UAVs and the FAA


As you can see above, this has been an ongoing issue for at least a decade.  How many people patiently waited while the FAA continued to tell them that they were working on allowing them to pursue the American dream by allowing them to legally fly their little rc aircraft for commercial puporses?

I think there's a class action lawsuit here.


What about these guys?  


This is an organization that uses RC aircraft to search for missing people.  But since the organization uses the aircraft for something other than purely recreation, they've been targeted by the FAA.

Oh, wait... They've fired back!


Show these guys some support.  If they can win this, it will set precedent.  Other cases will follow, and with each win, we can maybe earn back some of our rights.


I'd like to think that signing a petition or making my voice heard on the FAA comments page will make a difference, and maybe it will.  We need to be vocal, even if the FAA doesn't listen to us, the politicians that vote on their funding will be listening.  If a mere 2500 people leave a comment on the FAA's page about their re-interpretation of our hobby, then they'll figure we don't care.  Maybe they're right.

Comment on the FAA page.  There's no "right" comment.  Go through their "intereprtation", and find things that you don't like, and tell them that.  That they shouldn't outright ban goggles, that they need to open the airways to people who want to fly their rc aircraft for financial compensation, that event demonstration pilots shouldn't be targeted, that changes to the agreed upon regulations should be done properly, and not merely by "reinterpreting" how they'll regulate the public.

The FAA's comment page regarding the interpretaion of the special rule for model aircraft.


Sign the petition.  It might not change much, but remaining silent certainly won't.




earthsciteach on July 14, 2014
Great article, Fred! Just wondering.... How many US based members are there on this site? Everyone TRULY needs to speak out against this!!!
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1959cutter on July 15, 2014
they have outlawed ,by exact description flying under a hood for instrument rating for full sized aircraft,even with an instructor as spotter for aircraft/terrain!
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RCEM-Joey on July 15, 2014
No they haven't, in a generic description they may have, but the article particularly states the content of the document relating to the R/C (FPV), not general aviation.
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andreasbe on July 15, 2014
You are not alone, here in South Africa the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) has started similar nonsense, and the AMA Counterpart here called SAMAA is just being MUM on the issues.

SAMAA has turned into a non progressive "Old Boys Club" that only care for how many 3rd Party Claims they can prohibit by only endorsing Large club events and prohibiting the small comunity based events.

Keep strong, keep Firm!
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Trauma50 on July 15, 2014
No mention of joining the AMA? We are a disjointed group with thousand of posts on hundreds of forms. Too late to do much about anything. The AMA has been fighting this fight for a few years now. Yes, the FAA sucker punched them when they were not looking. They have the infrastructure and contacts in DC. They are in the process of lawyering up. Signing petitions and whining on a form makes you feel warm and fuzzy, but does not contribute to the fight. I've heard a few people say they won't sign the FAA comment section for fear of being tracked and men in black vans showing up to take them away?? Some people watch to many movies. I don't have the money to sue a Federal agency. Do you???

Join the AMA, throw in a few more bucks to their legal fund and let the lawyers fight it out.
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FlyingMonkey on July 15, 2014
Not a terrible point. Most of the other articles insist that joining the AMA is the right thing to do. How much has that helped though? Where are the numbers in the FAA comment section to show that the AMA has done it's job in getting it's members to turn out and comment?
The AMA is currently out best voice for the hobby as a whole. Unfortunately until recently the AMA has at best turned a blind eye to FPV. It's just been in the last year or two that they've shown any support for FPV at all.
In answer to your question about money, no I don't have enough to personally sue the FAA. You did read the article though, right? Or did you just notice that there were no links to the AMA? If the AMA was really interested in helping the cause, THEY should sue the FAA for failing to create a means for civilians to use model aircraft in a commercial application. The FAA has created the current atmosphere of distrust, and lack of respect for their authority due to their inability or unwillingness to work with the public.
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RCEM-Joey on July 15, 2014
What basis do you have that giving money to a company that literally has zero material on their FB page or website front page related to topic (UAV/FPV/Multirotor/cameras etc) is going to help. I'm by no means against it, I feel the AMA serves a VERY important part in a community but I do not believe it serves for our purpose. Nobody has proven than the AMA is putting time into helping this issue. To point out, i'm not saying they aren't but if Drone Photography Company joins the AMA they aren't covered by them, they would no material related to their business it's money going to something, right now, I would not be able to prove has effort.
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RCEM-Joey on July 15, 2014
I went back two months on AMA's FB page. They posted 3 posts related to the FAA issues, all three were links to other sites (one to a FT page) but none advocating or mentioning their efforts.
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tsbanking on July 15, 2014
Not a chance Im paying any money to AMA. They are obviously ineffective, don't you think? They like to use your money to pay themselves a nice salary and pretend they are fighting for us. We'll here is the result!
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sailorJohn on July 15, 2014
Main reason we join AMA is for the Insurance ,especially if you are in a club (one person could cause the entire club to be sued). Not many of us have contacted our ins agent and asked for a rider to fly rc , your liability clause may not be enough. You had to be a dope not to know that irresponsible videos would cause some reaction from the Gov. Hopefully there will be some accommodation (such as flying with a buddy box) that will allow FPV flying. Once the public learns of these new rules the FAA won't have to have a police force ,anyone can turn you in, as a local full scale pilot just found out. A great way to lose a flying field. I hope that the FAA will provide some sort of permit system for professional FPV after all that will be a cost of doing business. Some states require permits for any business so why should this be different. Who wants to be the next FAA victim. Maybe the AMA should file a court case to test these new rules, that would be a productive use of our dues.
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Trauma50 on July 15, 2014
Trauma50 July 15, 2014

Can you name any other organization that has their hat in the ring? Just one? That represent us as a community? Yes they have overhead salaries to pay a light bill, maintenance just like any other large group. They are just not in it to represent FPV. But the hobby as a whole. The FAA is threatening all of us. If you were a member you would have acsess to their financial discloser info they publish each year. You would see they are accountable for every doller they take in, and each one that goes out. Let me know about that other group that represents this hobby?

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Fatherfox on August 10, 2014
i see fpvta and flitetest and others want to do "something" or sue, but have no real plan of action. ok, check out http://dronepilotsassociation.com/ and https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/operation-drone-freedom-liberate-our-skies. the second is also supporting the first, but at least they are actually "doing" something. take a look and see. we can quibble or take action, but as history shows, "united we stand, divided we fall." now what?
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RCEM-Joey on July 15, 2014
Good article,

I would like to remind everybody that fighting for our rights is important, but we have to remember that (much like stated above) it's not all about just "us" forum members, FT members etc, it needs to involve everybody in our community. And our words as individuals represent us as a group, so choose your words wisely. Make sure your facts are correct and eliminate pitchfork banter (I think i just made that up!?) like the use of the word "drone." Some things do not matter as much as others.

- Know the law (and what isn't)
- Have a goal other than "changing it"
- Research, find sites, companies, peoples, FB pages that support the cause and use that as a tool, especially petitions and people with a lot of money... I mean power.....
- Educate, rather than repeating yourself over and over to people who are already involved in the same exact sites and effort you, use that energy to find new people who may not know about the rules and encourage others to join you.

Part of the reason I bring this up is I spend a lot of time reading all these pages people put up (good) and all the internal pitchfork banter (I like this phrase) propagation (the bad). Talking about it is good, but going in circles isn't.

For instance, the entire presidence to this article is to "sue the FAA", Flymonkey makes mention of sueing the FAA, which is probably a good idea and he's right it needs to be united but thus far there is no one clear voice and I think that is the biggest issue. Even the RCAPA's petition was not well written and has lost all steam.

First and foremost if you haven't done so, sign the petition at the bottom of Flyinmonkey's article. Our friend Edward Lyons from FPV America created this article and so far has 6,300+ supporters.
(The same link at above)

THEN, take this page, or others and copy them to FB, groups and sites, local clubs etc and get action going!

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CMS_1961 on July 15, 2014
Great article with a lot of good points!! First of all I am not a lawyer, just , an avid modeler and part time FPVer, and an FAA certificated pilot too. These are just my comments/thoughts.

Everyone should go read FAA-2014-0396 - Interpretation of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft. You all need to know what the FAA is really up to!!! Also provide comments back to the FAA -- Keep it civil, provide facts and ideas to make it better. Tell them what you like and don't like in this docket. The FAA actually has a guide for submitting comments--it helps!!

Like you said there is much more to this docket then just losing the right to fly FPV. There are no commercial operations of any kind of a "model aircraft"--- hobby or recreational purposes only!! This is really bad for a lot of people, especially our good friends right here at Flight Test. I don't want to see the FAA shut them down. They would not be able to operate because they are promoting great model designs that you can "purchase" along with other "products" and they fly FPV routinely. I love it, but the FAA has major problems with both aspects as you will read in the docket. I don't agree with the FAA. I think we should use the AC 91-57 as it was written back in 1981 and then let the AMA provide safety guidelines (like AMA Document #550) that show we are operating safely!! Not a super fan of the AMA either but what I have read and due to a lack of any other significant group to represent us flying modelers, I will re-new my membership. They have lawyers and they can deal with the FAA. Dealing with the FAA is part of what they are there for. In general they have not done a bad job. I have been flying since 1980 and back in the day they did help secure or at least lead the charge for more frequencies on the 72 MHz band and other issues that dealt with the FAA. Of course back then the FAA wanted to help. Find and read AC 91-57 - Model Aircraft Operating Standards and then read this docket FAA-2014-0396 - Interpretation of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft. This latest one is one sided to the FAA and does not even hint of an open relationship with modelers. The point is I believe the FAA wants "hard rules" that they can use to fine you or shut you down and that is what you will find in this docket. We all have to July 25th to comment directly to the FAA at their website. I suggest you use the time left and formulate some ideas and present them to the FAA and let them know what you don't want changed! This might have more of a result than a law suit, believe me, I was in and have worked with the government. You really can't sue Uncle Sam. You can try but they have more money than any of us do. I have also signed petitions but this may have little effect if it is not presented to the FAA correctly. You don't get a vote with the FAA-- you make comment and let them know what you don't like and why you don't like. It is also helpful if you present alternative ideas/suggestions on the topic. I am sure they know we all want their Visual Line of Sight (VLOS) interpretation changed or removed entirely! If they don't change it, none of us will "legally" be able to fly FPV! I don't think the FAA should have the right or power to make such an interpretation! Even the AMA has a better idea when it comes to FPV. The FAA needs to know that the majority of us modelers and AMA members want to fly safely and by the rules outlined in AC 91-57. They need to listen to the majority of modelers and how their new rules will negatively effect our hobby. They need to know that even if they make new rules it will not stop the habitual rule breakers---they will always be out there. Anyone can spend a lot of money and recklessly put something in the air--but I don't think that is what the majority of people in this hobby are doing. We want to have fun and not hurt anyone or damage property. We are safe and we want to be safe and the FAA needs to know that. Let the FAA go after the one percenters directly, but leave the majority that want to be safe alone!!

I suggest you read and then write civil comments back to the FAA before July 25th, sign petitions and join the AMA!! We must all do what we can to get the word out!! I have a 15 page letter with my comments ready to go to the FAA.

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Trauma50 on July 15, 2014

I have read form after form, post after post till my eyes have bled. We are splintered into factions. And that works to the FAA advantage. Join the AMA don't join. What have they done for me? FB really? Go to the AMA web page. If?? you were a member you would have a better idea as to what they were doing.

I'm a member of a small AMA club in Texas. I am also the safety officer. I was the only one who fly's FPV/Multicopters. They have been nothing more than supportive and inquisitive about it all. They watched me go from crashing a quad, every other flight, to hovering, to doing high speed runs while rolling and flipping. I know not every one has had the same experience with a local club. Guess I was lucky to find a good group of guys who share a interest in flying, what ever it is you want to fly.

Anyone going to Flightfest next week?? Make sure you have your AMA card so you can fly.

By the way here is a link that came out tonight regarding what the AMA is actually doing to help all people who enjoy this great hobby. If you were a member you would have got the same email.


The hobby is multifaceted FPV is not the only interest the AMA serve. FPV is just a small cog in a large machine. And a very new one I might add. When helicopters came out people freaked out. Then jets, they are to fast you can't fly that here. New ideas take awhile, they have to prove themselves. Look, I'm not looking for a fight, I'm not a troll. I have an option that I feel is valid, if it differs from yours that's ok.
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FlyingMonkey on July 16, 2014
I understand that FPV is just the pimple on the butt of the old fogies who make up much of the AMA. And if the AMA wants to remain relevant, they really need to focus on drawing in younger people. FPV can and will do that. I am a member of the AMA, and of a local club, and have been a member of several different AMA clubs throughout the years I've been flying model aircraft. Unfortunately there's still a lot of people who are of the mentality of "Back in my day we built models from sticks, and you liked it. We only flew in careful circles, and you liked it. Why do these kids need all these new fangled gadgets? I say they don't, by golly. They should do it like we did, and like it." They're the ones who ran off potential new members when they showed up with battery powered planes, or foam planes, or 3D helicopters, or multi rotors, and now FPV. They are the reason the clubs are dying out, and flying fields are being lost, and we're being forced to fly wherever we can find enough open space. And they are the ones the AMA was supporting, because that's what the AMA was made of. We need new blood in the hobby, and the AMA has been refusing to use the tools that would allow that transfusion.

Other than that, I have no strong feelings about the AMA.
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tsbanking on July 16, 2014
Exactly. Im not flying gas planes, I like foam wings and multirotors. I don't need to be a member of a club… And the fact that AMA is the only organization "fighting for the hobby" doesn't mean its any good. As I said- it proved itself to be useless. Only thing they can do is go to meetings and write letters… How come person from outside the US had to sue Faa to show that they are bs-ing people for years? Where was AMA? Why couldn't they help one of aerial photographers with their money and lawyers? Oh wait. You can only fly on AMA fields, not for profit, blah blah blah and pay us membership… So why do I need AMA again?
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ghostrider03z on July 16, 2014
I like the fact that you pointed out how its not just fpv, its literally everything being "re-outlined". Not many people are being informed of that.
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FlyingMonkey on July 16, 2014
Unfortunately that's the aspect that most people are focusing on. As much as I love the Flite Test guys, I cringed when that was the majority of what they touched upon in their last commentary on it. If this "interpretation" stands as is, if the FAA decided to act upon it, Flite Test would be a show about guys who talk about model airplanes, but never show you any in flight.
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FlyingMonkey on July 18, 2014
LAWSUIT WIN!!! http://motherboard.vice.com/read/the-faas-cease-and-desist-orders-to-drone-pilots-are-bogus-appeals-court-rules
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knightshots on July 19, 2014
No comment, since I work for the FAA.
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FlyingMonkey on July 20, 2014
Understood. If you make it to Flite Fest we can discuss it at the camp fire. Got to talking with a guy the other day who worked for the FAA, super nice guy. Didn't stop me from giving him some friendly ribbing though… ;)
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fretsman on July 20, 2014
Great article FlyingMonkey. One thing that puzzles me is that if the AMA has so many members, over 150000 from what I have read, then why are there only 22000 comments on the FAA site? With only five days left to post comments it seems like AMA members either don't know whats going on, or simply don't care.

By now there should have been well over 50000... Very sad indeed....
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CMS_1961 on July 23, 2014
Yes I agree fretsman! Very sad that the AMA members will not make their own voices heard-- just waiting for the AMA to do it all is not the answer. All AMA members, non-members, FPVers and anyone that is involved in model aviation to any extent should go to http://www.regulations.gov/#!submitComment;D=FAA-2014-0396-0001 and make a comment before Friday, 25 July to save this hobby-- !! Remember-- United we stand -- divided we fall!!!
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Trauma50 on July 24, 2014
My first 3 post were, well lets just say not very productive. So those of you still on the fence, or still not convinced, the AMA is not on your side. Join a club make a change from the inside, in stead of looking in, and complaining. They got a 60 day extension to the public comment period. Get the word out, and make a difference.


FAA extends Interpretive Rule comment period
At the request of the AMA, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has granted a 60-day extension to the public comment period (Docket No. FAA-2014-0396) for FAA’s Interpretation of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft established by Congress as part of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. The 60-day extension establishes the new deadline for comments as September 23, 2014.

In the Department of Transportation-FAA notice due to publish in the Federal Register tomorrow, 7/25, the FAA noted the following…

“On July 16, 2014, the Academy of Model Aeronautics submitted a request to extend the comment period by 60 days, citing the need to “educate the aeromodeling community, clarify the issues, and respond to questions regarding the impact that the interpretive rule has on various aspects of the modeling activity.” The FAA agrees that additional time for the submission of comments would be helpful, and therefore has decided to extend the comment period until September 23, 2014. The FAA expects that the additional time for comments will allow the affected community to prepare meaningful comments which will help the FAA to determine what clarifications to the interpretation may be necessary.”
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utrmultirotors on August 10, 2014
There is a movement underway to make exactly this happen, however a lot of help is needed, and not much time is left. Peter Sachs (@thedroneguy) has started an organization called the Drone Pilots Association, and they're gearing up to try and mount a case against the FAA. Check out http://dronepilotsassociation.com/ for more information. Donations to the legal fund are possible through paypal on that site, or through Operation Drone Freedom (the money goes to the same account) on Indie Gogo at https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/operation-drone-freedom-liberate-our-skies

The FAA is attempting to dupe everyone with the 60 day extension of the period of comment. They could have granted an additional 20 years for comment, but by legal procedure, their proposed rules become law on Aug 25th. Look into it, do your research, and get involved. We stand on the brink of losing our hobby as we know it.
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pintokitkat on August 12, 2014
As Edmund Burke so concisely put it, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”
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Want your FPV back? Sue the FAA.