AMA: Helping or Hurting UAVs?

Let’s grant the point that the Academy of Model Aeronautics preceded the formation of the FAA. Let’s also grant the point that the AMA has created a commendable history of safety service to the model aircraft community and has developed and provided a worthy set of safety standards.

On the other side, let us recognize that the AMA also applied pressure to the legislative process that resulted in a kind of “hands-off” status for all model aircraft that has persisted through the growing pains of the emergence of the “drone”.

Then the herds of new drone operators began to flood the radio controlled aircraft world. Many of the new “droners” are not the same breed as the old timers and R/C builders. These new operators did not automatically absorb the experience of AMA members.  And, a rift between old and new can be experienced on many of the long-established AMA fields (been there), which has resulted in the creation of new clubs specifically oriented toward rotary aircraft before the multirotors came into dominance.

After the public and politicians have been pressing the FAA for many years to create regulations, with the AMA now taking a position against the newly created registration process, even threatening legal action against the FAA, the organization is not only hindering the FAA’s efforts at regulating, but encourages members and non members to defy the new registration rules. The message from the AMA seems to be “don’t follow the rules”, which is not at all helpful in a field which already has more than enough of the havoc created by the “wild” element.  Instead of working toward a solution, the AMA is creating confusion and dissent.

Speaking as a member of the AMA, as well as a number of similar organizations, I find this to be an unfortunate development.

The AMA is to some extent responsible for the current situation. Promoting the “hands-off” position for recreational R/C operators in combination  with the serious shortcomings of the 2012 Reorganization Act, combined to create a gigantic gap between hobby and commercial. While congress, through its mishandling of §44711, caused the FAA to require a full pilot license to fly a $500 “model” aircraft, new “recreational” operators, shielded by the AMA’s pressure against regulation, resulted in a flood of operators without the years of experience of long time R/C operators or the necessary knowledge to operate among “real” aircraft, started popping up where they didn’t belong in large numbers.  The result is that those who chose to play by the rules, learning about airspace and aerodynamics and paying the expenses of operating a legitimate business arrived on the scene to find it totally owned by those who had no interest in playing by any rules. And now the AMA, in effect, is legitimizing that attitude.
As a result the FAA is left with trying to get a handle on a serious situation, hindered by legislative action from Federal to local, with the largest advocacy organization further hindering its efforts at every turn.  And now all parties continue putting pressure on the FAA to “deliver” while at the same time constantly getting in the way.

The AMA pushed for no restrictions on R/C aircraft. Reality has shown that no longer works.

The AMA wants it’s way or no way.

The AMA is simply wrong this time.

The FAA decided to register operators, not aircraft, which is a much more feasible and logical solution. That eliminates the point of purchase or resale issue as well as dealing with the tremendous number of aircraft. When you sell a “drone” you remove the sticker you made or remove the paper note you placed in the battery compartment (not recommended for DJI products with slide-in batteries).  The new owner would then place their identification number in or on the aircraft before their first flight.

The FAA explains the registration policy here:

Registration Certificate.

Registration certificates must be readily available to law enforcement or any representative of the Administrator. This means that the owner must have a printed or electronic copy available to show upon request.

Log in where you registered ( and you won’t find a place to register an aircraft/drone/uav.

In addition, the FAA has issued guidelines for local law enforcement with regard to UAV activities and issues:

While the FAA retains the responsibility for enforcing Federal Aviation Regulations, including those applicable to the use of UAS, the agency also recognizes that state and local Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) are often in the best position to deter, detect, immediately investigate, and, as appropriate, pursue enforcement actions to stop unauthorized or unsafe UAS operations. The agency’s Law Enforcement Guidance for Suspected Unauthorized UAS Operations (PDF) is intended to support the partnership between the FAA and LEAs in addressing these activities.(

Hobby Drone Registration questions:

Q35. Do I have to provide any information on my UAS?

A. Individual recreational users do not have to enter the make, model, and serial number. All non-recreational users will be required to provide the make, model, and serial number when the website is available to all other users.

Q36. If I own multiple drones, do I have to register them all?

A. No. You may register once and apply the same registration number to all your UAS.