I noticed a lot of members are from the US so I wanted to see how other people are dealing with current FAA regulations. I always thought UAVs are legal as long as you fly under the FAA advisory (LOS, ~400ft AGL max, etc.), but after reading more, I realized UAVs for scientific use is illegal even if it is not for profit (unless you have SAC-ECs etc. that require traditional pilot licenses). It's really hard to conduct meaningful research as a "hobbyist" without being able to collaborate with academic institutions and other researchers at all. 

How are other people handling this? Upcoming regulations at the end of 2015 are a long way off. I've had to put all my research ideas aside.

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Hi - Good question. The approach I'm taking is to use other platforms such as kites, balloons and poles to work on some techniques, mounts and camera systems and I use fixed wind and multi-rotor craft as a hobbyist when I can. That's far from ideal but it's working ok for now. Two other options that seem popular are to ignore or misinterpret the rules and hope for the best or try hard to find opportunities to fly in other countries where the regulations are not as cumbersome. 

Another set of rules that often are ignored have to do with FCC regulations that are relevant for most wireless video feeds. I can do that as a hobbyist since I have a ham radio license but can't use those privileges as part of my job. There are some commercial FCC licensing options but they're expensive.

Are you referring to non-amateur channels for longer range FPV?

I also came across an internet argument about whether aerial photography/videography is legal. Some people claim model UAV flights are no longer 'hobby' or 'recreational' when you're using them as platforms for photography, so the FAA frowns on it in an official capacity(!!). Obviously they're never going to go after millions of youtubers but I still wonder about it.

You can fly video as a hobbyist as long as you follow the rules laid out by the AMA. If someone pays you for the photo/videos then you're violating the rules - at least that's my understanding of the FAA interpretation. There is a court case challenging that. Trappy form Team Black Sheep (he has some beautiful videos) was fined $10,000 by the FAA and now it's in the courts. I haven't heard anything in the past couple weeks but a lot of people are watching this closely. Opinions on various blogs range from Trappy is a hero to Trappy is nut and is going to ruin it for all of us. 

Even for half-decent close range FPV you almost certainly need some sort of FCC license - amateur or commercial. Some folks manage to get permission to use military frequencies but I'm not sure how that works. There are some low power radio systems out there but I haven't seen any legal ones that work well for moving platforms. Some people use WiFi but that's usually limited to a couple hundred feet and latency is a problem. With my GoPro what I see on the monitor is what the camera saw about two second earlier. 

Court ruled in favor of the fine in October! The thing that confused me was that there's a long list of facts. 

"You flew a UAV"

"You received compensation"

"You flew recklessly"

So I don't understand what was stating facts and what was stating fault. He could have just been fined for flying recklessly.

Edit: Just read it more closely. It seems like he was only fined for reckless flying. http://www.suasnews.com/2013/10/25471/the-faas-complaint-against-tr...

Even for half-decent close range FPV you almost certainly need some sort of FCC license - amateur or commercial. 

Interesting! I have never flown FPV and have been thinking about trying it for fun.

You should consider getting a amateur technician radio license. The test isn't difficult and you can get a study book from the ARRL with all the test questions. 

I thought that was even MORE confusing. Isn't this more of a clarification, rather than permission? It'll be nice when these things are regulated by laws instead of advisories, circulars, e-mails, and the latest addition - news articles(!).



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