There is a debate in the drone industry with some urging more responsibility, and others more freedom. The hobby group prefers less regulation and the drone industry prefers that everyone operate under minimum regulation including drone certification. The industry group fears damage to the industry from amateur drone operators that exhibit rogue behavior. These are inappropriate activities that can intrude on privacy, endanger public safety and cause inconvenience. Formal remote pilot training is the key to enhanced safety and pilot responsibility. The rogue drone activity could cause crushing levels of regulation that would inhibit the industry at the critical time.
The two ways to fly drones legally are as Model Aircraft under section 336, or as Unmanned Air Systems under 14 CFR part 107.
1) Section 336 – FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012
Section 336 bans rules regarding certain model aircraft that meet a set of community rules. The aircraft must be “operated in accordance with a community-based set of safety guidelines and within the programming of a nationwide community-based organization [CBO].” Section 336 advances the experience of the Academy of Model Aeronautics, and that organization presented a nearly ten-year record of safety and effective guidelines.
Section 336 authorizes hobby flights, requires registration and adherence to the CBO guidelines. The hobby rules limit the weight to 55 lbs. unless specifically certified by a CBO and require all flights within the line of sight. Hobbyists may not fly near other aircraft nor emergency response situations. Operators must notify the tower before flying within five miles of an airport.
2) 14 CFR Part 107
The rule governs the recreational or commercial use of drones. It requires registration of the drone, a Remote Pilot Certification from FAA and a limit of 55 lbs. Drone certification is a crucial difference between sec. 336 and sec. 107.
Operating restrictions include no flights near airports, no flights near or over people, no flights in controlled airspace. All flights must be within visual line of sight. All flights must be in daylight or twilight and at or below 400 feet altitude. For 14 CFR 107 registered drones, the FAA can grant waivers for each operating restriction. The waiver process enables commercial usages of drones under specific conditions or tasks.
Pilot training and regulation of pilot skills, knowledge and readiness is the core difference between Sec 336 and 14 CFR 107. The industry approach urges increased training and knowledge is the most effective form of regulation.