Category Archives: R/C aircraft

Prep’ing for more drone regulations: “Senators alarmed over potential Chinese drone spy threat”

Lawmakers who were briefed on hundreds of intrusions over the White House, Capitol and Pentagon worry about possible espionage.

Source: Senators alarmed over potential Chinese drone spy threat – POLITICO

In the past week or so, there have been multiple mass murder incidents (Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Virginia) involving guns or knives. Rather than address that, Congress and DHS would prefer to generate lots of fear over toy RC model aircraft.

This is prep work to have DHS (the power behind the FAA) write more restrictive drone regulations.

Even though they acknowledge there has been no actual threats – they use the monster under the bed approach to explain they are afraid. If we can imagine a threat, then we must be very scared.

They also come as Congress debates extending current federal authorities and adopting new ones to track the aerial vehicles as potential security threats.

….

“There’s YouTube videos that could walk your grandparents through how to update the software on one of these drones to be non-detectable and to do a whole lot of other things — get rid of elevation ceilings, all kinds of stuff,” said a government contractor who has helped to collect the data for federal authorities. “If you were to go buy a DJI drone at the store, it wouldn’t fly over airports or specific cities because of a specific no-fly zone. So, anything that we see in DC that is a DJI-manufactured product has been hacked or manipulated to enable flight in these zones.”

You can see where this is going – they will again propose to ban the sale of RC aircraft that can be modified – and likely resurrect their attempt to ban homemade RC aircraft altogether (which was part of the original proposal from December 2019). It will not stop actual threat actors – they can still build their own aircraft as has been done for 90 years!

Further, am guessing they will eventually propose that anyone flying a drone >250 grams end up with the equivalent of an FAA remote pilot license for all flights outside FAA sanctioned airfields.

All flights outside sanctioned airfields are already required to have remote ID (as of Sep 2023) – and the FAA is working with a third party to develop remote ID monitoring systems that will track everything in the air around all cities.

These news stories about “Congress briefed on intrusions”, or people in Europe arrested for flying drones over the incredibly remote Svalbard Island (must be Russian intelligence) – are groundwork propaganda to prepare for the next round of regulations. There will be more stories like this. You may remember those stories back in 2018-2019 of drones going to cause air disasters? Those disasters did not happen and haven’t happened since the new rules were enacted – but those rules are not yet in effect! – and nearly all scary drone stories vanished from the news.

But now we are back – not with scary air disaster scenarios but now it’s nebulous scary national security threats.

UPDATE: The “Russian flying drones over Svalbard” story has an update – the individual has been acquitted of all charges. There was never anything illegal going on. But there is almost no follow up to the original scary news reports? See how propaganda works? Publish the scary headline accusations but never follow up with the retraction.

We see where this is going:

  • New regulations will be introduced requiring the FAA to track all drone flights using the Remote ID system, and a network of receivers throughout the country. It’ll be ADSB but for model aircraft. This is back to the original proposal – but shifts network tracking from end users to the network itself (where it properly belongs).
  • Homemade model aircraft will be banned – except for use at FAA sanctioned approved model airfields. This is what was proposed by the FAA in their original remote ID rules. In fact, the original proposal said it would gradually fade out approved airfields such that eventually, no homemade model aircraft could be flown anywhere in the U.S. While that was removed from the final rule, this line of thinking has probably returned.
  • Am guessing Congress will eventually require a drone pilot’s license in addition to the remote ID network. This is a guess but it’s the kind of thinking that goes on in Congress.

Update: In a related move FCC Bans Authorizations for Devices That Pose National Security Threat | Federal Communications Commission (refers to communications and camera containing gear designed and manufactured by selected companies in China)

Guessing will see a new round of drone regulations: “‘Swarm’ of drones spotted flying above UK nuclear plant”

In 2019, in the lead up to the FAA’s proposed rules on R/C model aircraft, the media ran frequent scary stories about drone sightings (many of which were not even real). The stories were so frequent, and so often wrong or left out critical details – that they seemed to have been a coordinated public relations campaign by those wanting to regulate model aircraft.

The result was Homeland Security wrote the FAA’s proposed rules, largely based on an assumption that anyone flying an R/C model aircraft is a terrorist (the hobby has been around since the 1930s…)

The sighting was one of two in the space of four days.

Source: ‘Swarm’ of drones spotted flying above UK nuclear plant

Now we have recent reports of “Russians” allegedly flying drones on the Svalbard Island, and in northern Norway. Then this – 11 reports over almost 36 months of drones near or over nuclear facilities in the UK.

The US rules on mandatory remote identification of newly sold drones takes effect in December (postponed from September due to technology delays). All new drones must broadcast their position and owner information. By fall of 2023, all drones and most RC model aircraft – must broadcast their position, or no longer be flown except at FAA approved airfields.

Summary of FAA Remoted ID rules

Here is a summary from the Academy of Model Aeronautics: AMA IN ACTION Advocacy for Members | Academy of Model Aeronautics

I am a member of the AMA. I was critical of how the AMA initially re-acted last January when it urged members to file a form letter to the FAA’s NPRM proceeding. We know that sending form letters are not a good approach to dealing with the regulatory process. The best is to write individual, or at least individually edited, letters with specific talking points.

That said, the AMA has done good work since then, forming alliances and lobbying Congress, and in interaction and education of FAA staff.

One year ago, the FAA’s NPRM literally spelled the end of the home built model aircraft world, and was likely to end the recreational flying of even purchased/built products due to its proposed requirement to log all flights, in real time, over the Internet. This would have likely required a monthly subscription fee.

What we ended up with one year later is vastly improved. It meets the Congressional law directive to implement Remote ID – without going beyond what Congress asked for. The final rule permits retrofitting existing aircraft with an add on Remote ID Module. It no longer terminates FRIA applications, a feature the FAA originally envisioned as shutting down home built model aircraft.

Aircraft under 250 grams do not need to have a Remote ID.

For most of us, if we continue flying at our local air field, we don’t need to do anything. If we wish – or we wish to fly elsewhere – we can add a Remote ID module to our aircraft.

We will need to register ourselves with the FAA as we’ve had to do now for several years, but will also need to add our aircraft Remote ID information into the registration database. Whereas the FAA had proposed a fee per aircraft, they eliminated the per aircraft fee.

Some existing, commercially built aircraft (such as some DJI drones) may be able to implement Remote ID via software updates. DJI’s proposal has been to embed Remote Id information inside the existing control link.

Note – I’ve seen posts on social media blaming the AMA for Remote ID. Those posts are nonsense. The AMA should not be blamed and should instead be thanked.

Congress passed a law that directed the FAA to implement Remote ID. The FAA had no choice in the matter – only the implementation.

The FAA’s original NPRM was ladled down with nonsense by the Department of Homeland Security which ran the original proposal off into nonsense.

Fortunately, the AMA, and many, many others vociferously argued against the original NPRM – and the FAA appears to have listened. In the end, the FAA implemented what Congress required it to do – Remote ID.

Don’t blame the AMA for this – the AMA helped make these regulations vastly more palatable to the R/C model community. Thank the AMA. I am thanking the AMA for the work they did on this with a positive outcome.

FAA NPRM: The goal is to create toll roads in the sky and eliminate most recreational flight

“We’re building infrastructure to manage drones, those flying 400 feet or below and weighing 55 pounds or less,” Healander said. “We’re building highways in the sky or toll roads for commercial and recreational drones.

Source: Group pushing for drone highway over our heads

Looks like the  real reason for the Remote ID NPRM just got loose! Its about creating toll roads in the air six feet off the ground in our backyards.

The FAA, Homeland Security, and private industry have taken ownership of the air in your backyard (and inside your home – see my NPRM comments) and then will charge you a fee to access this airspace.

The FAA says it has the right to regulate the “navigable airspace” of the United States and it, not Congress, has defined that to be ground level and up.  This means the airspace in your backyard starting at ground level.

In the NPRM, the FAA envisions a world where only “compliant” drones are sold. A compliant drone is not capable of flight if it cannot receive a GPS signal – in other words cannot be flown in most indoor locations as GPS signals do  not penetrate most buildings. Through this NPRM, the FAA regulates your use of indoor airspace too. Thus, the FAA is asserting it regulates all “air” in the United States including inside your own home.

But, says the FAA, you can use the airspace in your backyard or inside your home if you pay a fee to be monitored in real time, sending data through your cellular phone data plan ($)  to a third-party, privatized air traffic control system, charging a fee for service.

This regulatory scheme is predicated on a hypothesized massive threat from model aircraft.

If you read the above article, the people quoted vastly exaggerate the risk of drones – as noted in my own comments on the NPRM, the FAA left out that “industry experts” said there was no drone, in one of their examples, and in another scary story they told of a drone flying over a stadium, the FAA left out that it was flown by a child. Four of the FAA’s cited references went to “page not found” errors.  If the threat is so great, why do they have to omit key details in their evidence?

The goal is to privatize the airspace and restrict  use to the wealthy, large corporations and government. That is what many in industry want to happen and they are pressuring the FAA to adopt rules that would meet industry’s desire. From the above linked article, we see this is the case – the goal is to create toll roads above our heads.

The FAA’s NPRM on Remote ID  seems written by industry and Homeland Security – and  eliminates as many recreational users of the airspace as possible  to privatize the airspace for profit. By mandating real time tracking and logging of every recreational flight, the FAA may use software to find infractions, even minor ones, and automatically generate fines. This creates a “fear” factor that will ground most everyone.

Post 9/11, the FAA tweaked regulations in a way that largely grounded many of the nation’s ultralight aircraft. They did this by eliminating the waiver for 2-seat ultralight trainers – this largely ended the availability of flight training for ultralight aircraft and the ultralight market collapsed.  20 years ago, popular air shows had acres of ultralights on display. At a huge air show I attended more recently, there were five ultralights on display. Everyone I asked told me the same story – the FAA de facto eliminated ultralight flying – because, they said, Homeland Security was scared of ultralights. And they all noted that air shows used to have acres of aircraft.

The FAA  will not ban model aircraft but instead are being pushed to create rules and regulations that have the same effect, limiting model aircraft to the wealthy (and limited locations) and to drones operated by the AmazonUPSGoogle cartels flying 100′ over our homes, collecting aerial surveillance imagery and wireless signals that will be analyzed for consumer product opportunities (and sold to local governments and law enforcement as well), and for use by international foreign espionage. (Think of the business intelligence  gathered from low flights over competitors business facilities.)

The “cat is out of the bag“, so to speak. The primary purpose of this Remote ID NPRM is to privatize the airspace for industry. The FAA   can accomplish that by exaggerating  the risks of model aircraft and use that as justification to create an expensive, Rube Goldberg-like complex, expensive, privatized air traffic control system. Entrepreneurs see an economic opportunity to create toll roads in the air to clear out the airspace for industrial applications.  Those entrepreneurs do not have a business unless you are mandated to subscribe to their services. (A  genuine business would sell its products and services based on value to the customer – here, there is generally no value delivered to recreational flyers.) To that end, they have run a PR campaign fostering fear and hysteria over recreational drone usage in order to provide cover for unnecessary and draconian regulations.

I hope you have filed comments with the FAA – comments are due by March 2nd. There is plenty of information on this blog on how to do that.

U.S. government “Tips for Submitting Effective Comments” regarding FAA NPRM on Remote ID

Here is the Federal government’s official guideline for submitting comments regarding notices of proposed rulemaking:

Tips for Submitting Effective Comments (PDF)

Some organizations have encouraged their members to submit “Form letters” and barely modified “Templates” as a submission. As noted on this blog last month, this is the wrong way to go about making a difference in the rule making proceeding.

Here is the official statement from the U.S. government on the Regulations.gov web site:

Form Letters
Organizations often encourage their members to submit form letters designed to address issues common to their membership. Organizations including industry associations, labor unions, and conservation groups sometimes use form letters to voice their opposition or support of a proposed rulemaking. Many in the public mistakenly believe that their submitted form letter constitutes a “vote” regarding the issues concerning them. Although public support or opposition may help guide important public policies, agencies make determinations for a proposed action based on sound reasoning and scientific evidence rather than a majority of votes. A single, well-supported comment may carry more weight than a thousand form letters.

Of course as showed previously, many comments were filed by those that followed some organizations’ misdirection to file form letters.

When I checked this morning, I found this in the comment file including the first one labeled “Template”.

From the linked PDF above:

8. The comment process is not a vote. The government is attempting to formulate the best policy, so when crafting a comment it is important that you adequately explain the reasoning behind your position.
9. Identify credentials and experience that may distinguish your comments from others. If you are commenting in an area in which you have relevant personal or professional experience (i.e., scientist, attorney, fisherman, businessman, etc.) say so.
10. Agency reviewers look for sound science and reasoning in the comments they receive. When possible, support your comment with substantive data, facts, and/or expert opinions. You may also provide personal experience in your comment, as may be appropriate. By supporting your arguments well you are more likely to influence the agency decision making.

If you still wish to file a form letter and submit a template letter with “Template” as the first word of your comment, go right ahead and waste your time.

FAA NPRM Summary of key points and recommendations, in my comments

Updated on February 12, 2020.

Summary of Key Points and Recommendations

The NPRM eliminates most indoor flights of small UAS

The NPRM envisions that only Remote ID compliant craft will be sold. Remote ID compliant craft are unable to take off if they cannot receive a GPS signal. As a GPS signal is not receivable in most indoor locations, this de facto eliminates indoor flight of small UAS and implies the FAA is regulating the indoor airspace, over which it has no jurisdiction. This indoor flight restriction violates PL 115-254 Sec. 354. Or maybe not – comments on Page 8 and 22 of the NPRM suggest anyone can sell non-compliant drones by adding a “For indoor use only” sticker since the FAA cannot regulate indoor airspace nor the products on the shelf at Walmart. Which makes much of this NPRM moot.

FAA’s Proposed Use of FCC Part 15 Spectrum Will Cause Interference and Crashes

The FAA proposes to use 47 CFR Part 15 of the FCC rules and regulations for transmission of Remote ID broadcast beacon signals and requires that transmitters “must be designed to maximize the range at which the broadcast can be received”. The requirement to “maximize the range” mandates that small UAS transmit at the 4 w ERP level (1 watt spread spectrum, 6 db gain antenna) – from aircraft potentially located hundreds of feet in the air. This is not how Part 15 bands are intended to be used, will cause interference to residential consumer devices, and may lead to receiver desense and loss of flight control signals, causing SUAS to crash, when multiple SUAS are flown in close proximity to each other.

The FAA Envisions Using Wi-Fi in a way that is Not Technically Feasible

The NPRM proposes using Wi-Fi, if available, to log flights with the Remote ID USS, particularly with a presumably lower cost Limited Remote ID system. Small UAS that use a flight control app on the smart phone are communicating with the SUAS craft using Wi-Fi. Currently existing small UAS implement a Wi-Fi Access Point (AP) on the aircraft and the phone connects to this AP. The phone cannot simultaneously connect to a second AP that has Internet access; the phone can connect to only one AP at a time. Thus, Wi-Fi cannot be used to provide a Remote ID USS connection. The NPRM proposes a Limited Remote ID that appears intended for low cost consumer quadcopters that would be controlled via a smart phone flight control app, logging the flight to the Remote ID USS over Wi-Fi. As envisioned, this is not technically feasible. The flight control app would have to log the flight over a smart phone Mobile Data connection. This means the concept of a low cost Limited Remote ID small UAS is unobtainable. The Limited Remote ID should be dropped and replaced with a broadcast beacon Remote ID for Visual Line of Sight (VLOS) and Internet-based Remote ID USS retained only for Beyond Visual Line of Sight operations (BVLOS). Related: Based on my own tests, the addition of a Remote ID USS data logging app, transmitting once per second, may reduce smart phone battery capacity by 10%. When combined with a smart phone-based flight control app, this may drain 40-50% of the battery in 30 minutes of flying.

The NPRM violates the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)

COPPA specifies strict protections regarding the collection of data related to children, including geolocation data and data from “toys and Internet of Things”. An age restriction or permission from a parent or guardian to collect data does not resolve the problem. If a child flew a quad with or without permission, the parent or guardian is legally entitled to contact the data collector and ask to review, delete or suspend future data collection. The NPRM, however requires logged data be retained for at least six months – but COPPA applies to the Federal government – there is no exemption for the FAA. This is a problem for the use of the Internet to log operator information to a Remote ID USS.

The NPRM violates the 4th Amendment

In the event a small UAS (SUAS) can receive a GPS signal indoors, when that SUAS is flown inside a home, it is required to log its activity in the Remote ID USS. The FAA is mandating the installation of a surveillance device inside a home, which lawyers tell me is not permitted by the 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Others suggest there may conflicts with the 5th Amendment, and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act prohibition on collecting electronic signals of Americans.

Click the “Continued reading” link, here, to continue reading my full Summary of FAA NPRM Remote ID issues. There are a lot!

Continue reading FAA NPRM Summary of key points and recommendations, in my comments