The FAA has issued a statement to local law enforcement on “guidance for suspected unauthorized UAS operations“.
The guidance notes that recreational model aircraft operations are mostly exempt from this directive but that any commercial operation of a radio controlled model aircraft must be done only by a licensed pilot, the aircraft must have an airworthiness certificate, a valid registration N- number and/or an FAA Certificate of Waiver Authorization.
Specifically, local police are encouraged to “stop and talk” to “suspected violators” (which means anyone with a radio controlled airplane) – stepping into a zone of potential intimidation and harassment to thwart the use of radio control model aircraft in the U.S.
The FAA is seeking to have local police enforce Federal rules and regulations through detection and using methods to deter UAS operation, and if necessary, to investigate UAS usage including conducting witness interviews and collecting evidence against operators (which implies that the unspecified methods to “deter” include intimidation and harassment.)
As many are aware, small radio controlled model aircraft are a popular platform for shooting aerial photos and videos. Radio controlled model aircraft have been flown by hobbyists for many decades. Even the use of model airplanes for picture taking has been done for a very long time.
Note: The FAA has defined aircraft so broadly as to now include kites, balloons on strings, and some paper airplanes (see page 2).