Wednesday, August 9, 2017
These days, drones are everywhere—in the news, on television and in the skies above Mississippi. This summer, especially, many people will be flying recreational unmanned aircraft, often referred to as "drones," for the first time. And as Congress considers reauthorization for the Federal Aviation Administration, it's important that they take a close look at the educational programs that community-based organizations like the Academy of Model Aeronautics provide.
I'm one of the 704 AMA members in Mississippi and almost 200,000 members of organization, which is the largest one for of model aircraft enthusiasts in the world. I first learned to fly in 1955, and built and flew my first control-line plane when I was 16 years old. I joined AMA in 1988 and have been flying with my local club ever since.
Since its founding in 1936, AMA has been committed to educating members and those new to the hobby on how to fly model aircraft and drones safely and in the right places through a community-based set of safety guidelines. AMA's decades of experience have shown that the best way to promote safety isn't to impose new regulations on recreational users: It is to educate them about best practices and safe operation.
Safe flying includes following the safety guidelines that community-based organizations such as AMA have developed. The community-based set of safety guidelines that the organization provides helps all enthusiasts ensure that they're flying where and how they should be, including those enjoying the hobby in Mississippi. New to the hobby? Interested in taking to the air? Here are a few simple guidelines:
Fly no higher than 400 feet and remain below any surrounding obstacles when possible unless operating within an established community-based safety program or through a waiver from the FAA.
Remain well clear of and do not interfere with manned aircraft operations. You must see and avoid other aircraft and obstacles at all times.
Do not intentionally fly over anyone or over any moving vehicles, and especially do not fly in or near a neighborhood.
Contact the airport or control tower before flying within five miles of an airport.
Consider seeking help from a local community-based club or contact AMA to find one, and then get connected with an experienced flier so you can learn to fly the proper way.
As part of AMA's ongoing commitment to educating hobbyists and recognizing the growing interest in the flying of model aircrafts and drones, AMA expanded its educational efforts to reach even more new people in 2014 by helping launch the "Know Before You Fly" campaign. This campaign, which was created in partnership with other UAS industry leaders and the FAA, works to put important safety information and flying tips in the hands of newcomers to the hobby from across the country, even those who are not members of a community-based organization like AMA.
As Congress works on FAA reauthorization, I urge them to preserve the Special Rule for Model Aircraft, which affirms the importance of a community-based approached to managing the model-aviation community. I want everyone to experience the joy of flying like I have, but that will only be possible if our longstanding hobby is preserved, and we are able to fly without burdensome regulations.
Bobby Day is the president of the Capitol City Radio Control Club in Clinton, Miss.