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Drone Regulation History in the US: A Comprehensive Overview

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A Fascinating Journey

The history of drone regulation is a fascinating journey that has evolved significantly over the years. From the birth of model aviation in 1936 to the latest advancements in 2023, the regulatory landscape has seen numerous changes. Regulatory bodies like the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) have worked diligently to create frameworks that balance innovation with safety. This article aims to provide an in-depth look at the key milestones in the history of drone regulation, tracing its roots from hobbyist activities to the complex legal frameworks that govern commercial and recreational drone use today.

1936: The Birth of Model Aviation

  • The Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) is founded, promoting the hobby of building and flying model airplanes.
  • The AMA’s safety code becomes the foundation for safe model aviation practices.

1981: FAA’s Advisory Document

  • The FAA introduces advisory document AC 91-57, providing guidelines for model aviation, reflecting the AMA’s guidance.

2007: The Rise of Drones

  • Hobbyists begin to combine model aviation components with wireless video systems, leading to the creation of early drones.
  • The FAA clarifies that commercial operations under AC 91-57 are not permitted, effectively outlawing private, commercial UAS operations.

2012: FMRA and Section 333

  • The FAA Modernization and Reform Act (FMRA 2012) is passed.
  • Section 333 of FMRA 2012 allows the FAA to approve individual private drone operators on a case-by-case basis.

2014: Hollywood Takes to the Skies

  • The FAA grants “Section 333 exemptions” to six aerial film crews based in Los Angeles, albeit with stringent requirements.

2015: The Push for Drone Registration

  • Anticipating a surge in drone ownership, the FAA establishes a national UAS registration system.
  • Drone owners are required to register their drones, leading to resistance from the traditional aeromodeling community.

2016: Part 107 – A New Era

  • The FAA establishes 14 CFR Part 107, providing a clear regulatory framework for commercial drones.
  • Specific rules for drone pilots are set out, and an Airman Knowledge Test is introduced.

2017: A Legal Challenge

  • John Taylor, an attorney and drone enthusiast, challenges the FAA’s authority over drone registration.
  • In May, an appeals court rules in Taylor’s favor, stating that the FAA overstepped its authority.

2018: Congress Steps In

  • Congress enacts the National Defense Authorization Act, mandating UAS registration.
  • The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 is passed, repealing Section 336 of FMRA 2012 and introducing Section 349, giving the FAA explicit authority to regulate all UAS, including model aircraft.

2019-2022: Continued Integration and Expansion

  • The FAA works towards the full integration of drones into the National Airspace System (NAS).
  • Commercial and recreational drone use continues to grow, with drones playing significant roles in sectors like agriculture, real estate, and entertainment.

2023: Looking Ahead

  • As drone technology continues to advance, collaboration between regulatory bodies, enthusiasts, and industry stakeholders becomes even more crucial.
  • Efforts are made to ensure the safe and efficient integration of UAS into the national airspace, balancing innovation with safety.

Our Commitment

As we’ve seen, the history of drone regulation is a complex tapestry of legal, technological, and societal developments. From the early days of model aviation to the current era where drones are integrated into the National Airspace System (NAS), the landscape has continually evolved. At FlexAir Aviation, we pride ourselves on offering a wide range of drone services, including aerial mapping, cinematography, agriculture, and more. We are committed to staying up-to-date with all FAA regulations to ensure that our projects are not only seamless but also fully compliant with the law. As drone technology continues to advance, collaboration between regulatory bodies, enthusiasts, and industry stakeholders like us becomes even more crucial. We look forward to contributing to the safe and efficient integration of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) into the national airspace, thereby balancing the scales of innovation and safety.