Out with the old regulation, in with the new one, FAA Section 349

Ever get used to, and admire a Federal Regulation, only to have it yanked out from under your feet?  Updated; Modernized; Comprehensive; these are the verbs our Friends in Washington use to describe a new regulation, all in an effort to sway public opinion.  This is what happened to FAA Section 336, when Section 349 was ushered in as its “Updated” more “Modernized” counterpart..

What was wrong with 336 anyway?  Nothing, outside of being too rigid…Rigid for the Federal Government that is.  You see, It limited the FAA’s ability to make any changes to the regulation.  And, with the rapid expansion the Drone Industry has been experiencing over the last few years, the FAA needed the ability to ‘tweak’ the regulation, and Section 336 didn’t afford them that latitude.  So, what does the Federal Government do in these situations?  You got it, throw the baby out with the bath water!

Many ‘Commonsense Rules’ in Section 349

Section 349 defines the manner in which a Drone Hobbyist may fly their UAV.  In my view, many of tenants of Section 349 are commonsense.  Take for instance Rule 3 “Must stay out of the way of Manned Aircraft”.  Most fair-minded folks would view this as common sense, but obviously there have been instances where drone pilots failed to yield the right of way to manned aircraft, thus the reason to define this statute.

Rule 1 says the Drone must be flown within a Community Based Organizations Safety Guidelines.  Huh?  I know it’s rather vague, and highly likely that’s by design, but it’s widely assumed the term ‘Community Based Organization’ is referring to the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA).  Since the AMA is widely regarded as the industry leader, and knowing they have a cozy relationship with the FAA, all signs point to the AMA being the Safety Guidelines to follow.

Always maintain Visual Line of Site

Rule 2, Maintain Visual line of Site.  The pilot must be able to maintain sight of the Drone for the entire flight.  And no, you cant use binoculars or a telescope.  Corrective lenses?  Thankfully, yes, those are permitted.  Oh, and if you are flying FPV, (First Person View) you will need a spotter to maintain the visual line of site.

Pilots must obtain Prior Authorization

Before operating in controlled airspace.  I think we can all agree this seems pretty reasonable.  This goes hand and ‘remote’ with staying out of the way of Manned Aircraft.  There are 2 ways of obtaining the blessing of the FAA to fly in controlled airspace.

  • Only fly your UAV at an approved ‘fixed site’, such as a Flying Field.  Unless you’re testing the speed and nimbleness of your UAV, or want to show off your piloting skills in an effort to impress your girlfriend, flying at a flying field seems rather boring.  Most of us are flying to capture unique images for our instagram feed, this does nothing to help us accomplish that!  Unless of course, you’re including pictures of your girlfriend taken from your drone in your instagram post, then we got something!
  • Another way of obtaining authorization to fly in controlled airspace is by submitting a formal request via the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability, otherwise referred to as LAANC Program.  This is supposed to be available in the Summer of 2019, but unfortunately with the Federal Government and ‘roll outs’, ‘delays’ are usually uttered in the next breath.  Please, do not call your local air traffic control tower and request authorization to fly your drone, they have serious matters to attend to, such as playing solitaire on their government issued iphone X’s.

So for now, FAA Section 349 is the law of the sky for UAV’s.  I will be updating this information as new changes are made.  But, for now, check out Greg’s Reverdiau’s profile or youtube channel to get more in depth on Section 349.  The Drone Girl also has a good post about Part 107 and flying your drone for recreation.  If you want to register your Drone with the FAA, go here.