The City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Resources Department is considering a new policy to regulate the use of drones and model aircraft in the city’s public parks. While I appreciate the efforts of the city to designate drone and model aircraft flying sites, this proposed policy runs afoul of the Federal Aviation Administration’s authority by attempting to regulate airspace. It also preempts the Drone Advisory Committee, which is currently working on recommendations for cities and states on how to regulate drones.
In addition, the new policy would limit the number of locations where the public can fly and place an unnecessary burden on the Academy of Model Aeronautics members in the area who have been flying safely in the community for decades. That’s why we strongly urge the City of Raleigh to reconsider this proposed park policy.
I’m one of more than 200,000 AMA members who enjoy the fun and educational hobby of flying model aircraft and drones. Since its founding in 1936, AMA has been committed to educating our members and those new to the hobby about 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 has shown that the best way to promote safety isn’t to impose new regulations on recreational users; it’s to educate pilots about best practices and safe operation.
The proposed policy by the City of Raleigh establishes new regulations and restricts recreational drone and model aircraft flight to only seven of the city’s public parks. This proposal runs afoul of the FAA’s authority over the nation’s airspace. In December of 2015, the FAA issued a fact sheet for state and local governments that clearly asserts the FAA’s authority over the airspace and underscores the importance of consistent regulations to promote safety.
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Given the FAA’s authority, we strongly recommend that the City of Raleigh hold off on any new rules until the DAC has reached consensus recommendations on the proper role of state and local governments in regulating airspace and managing the recreational community. This committee, which includes representatives from the FAA and stakeholders in the industry, is working on recommendations on how to incorporate drones and model aircraft into the nation’s airspace and is expected to share its recommendations soon.
In our experience, education, not regulation, is what truly equips individuals to fly safely and responsibly. Unfortunately, by limiting the number of available flying sites, the City of Raleigh is making education for new hobbyists even more difficult. AMA has been working on educating the public about how to fly safely for many years. Recognizing the growing interest in flying drones, AMA co-founded the “Know Before You Fly” campaign in 2014. This campaign, 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 across the country.
We encourage the City of Raleigh to consider the FAA’s authority over the nation’s airspace and wait for the DAC to complete its work before moving forward. We also hope that the City of Raleigh will avoid causing unnecessary burdens for safe and responsible hobbyists. It’s important to remember that we all share the same goal – to keep our skies safe. I want everyone to experience the joy of flying, but that’s only possible if the City of Raleigh reconsiders this new park policy.
Jay Marsh is the Vice President for District IV of the Academy of Model Aeronautics, which includes Raleigh and its surrounding areas.