Window of opportunity for flying Near Space remotely piloted vehicles anywhere in the US?
- At first glance this might be a window of opportunity for doing some balloon drop remotely piloted (or autonomous) vehicles in the US without worry of FAA fines....At least until the FAA responds to this ruling or appeals it. Interesting to note that this ruling resulted from an FAA fine of $10,000 issued to the commercial operator of a drone taking video over a college (probably a Quadcopter). The ruling revoked the FAA fine and stated that there is no enforceable FAA rule or FAR classifying model aircraft as an UAS "Unmanned Aircraft Systems" (formally known as an UAV). However I'm not certain how this affects the 400 foot ceiling or 3000 feet from the control operator agreement in place by the AMA for model aircraft and how enforceable that would be given this court ruling. Also interesting to note that Amazon had to film their Quadcopter delivery ad outside the US prior to this ruling.http://www.theverge.com/2014/3/6/5479582/judge-rules-commercial-drones-are-legal-undoing-six-year-ban
A search through YouTube shows that there have been a few Near Space balloon drop remotely-controlled or autonomously-controlled model aircraft flights performed recently in the US and elsewhere so far without FAA repercussions. Some of these videos have almost a million viewers so I have to think that the FAA might be aware of them with that kind of publicity.
Doing this successfully without risking an FAA fine would probably depend on the priority level the FAA places on violations on the AMA R/C aircraft rules and whether they are enforceable. Although removing the UAS classification for model aircraft will help tremendously, proceed with caution and understand the potential risks before running out and flying those Near Space aircraft. It sure would be nice to be able to fly them anywhere in the US instead of limiting these activities to the Black Rock Desert Nevada, Sheboygan WI Space Port test range over Lake Michigan, military bases, Gulf of Mexico (where I've flown our group's balloon-launched return vehicles), the newly established UAS test ranges in a few new locations in the US (most not in place yet and probably a hefty range cost involved) or Canada.
Interesting link for those in the Midwest about the Sheboygan Space Port test range: http://www.tcei.com/sss/SSSproj.html
- Bill WB8ELK