Steve

Carlson

, Massachusetts

, United States

Posted on
2020-02-20 0:58:41
“I’ve been flying FPV for 17 years. In addition to being an R/C modeler, I am a private pilot, and by profession I am an Aerial Roboticist. My main interest in FPV is long-range thermal and ridge-lift sailplane soaring. I’ve flown just about every form of FPV, including a few hours of VTOL flying with a fixed-wing/multi-copter hybrid of my own design. I’ve flown in some MultiGP races with my quad, and have many hours of FPV combat wing flying in competitions. I consider FPV to be the continuation in the evolution of aeromodelling, and I am completely heartbroken over the recent drama brought on by the FAA. I fly R/C and FPV to escape the rules and restrictions of the full-scale world; I will not stand to see this corner of personal expression and freedom yoked with the same decay and bureaucracy that has so thoroughly strangled the manned aviation world. I’ve been in love with flight since before Kindergarten. I started flying R/C planes around the age of 11, always with the goal of one day flying FPV, though at the time it was known as “RPV” (late 90’s). I made competing in science fairs my sport during my middle-school and high-school years; designing, building and flying various designs and ultimately competing at the international level with a UAV design of my own. During the same years of high-school, I started my first FPV experiments using eBay camera sets that could get almost 100 yards of range. This, and the nature of R/C planes in general, lead me into electronics and amateur radio, and eventually selecting Electrical Engineering in college. It was also during my high-school years that I got my Private Pilot License. I still am an active (with current medical and BFR) pilot renting RV-12’s locally. This, and my career in various aerospace companies (including interning at NASA), and working on various flying robotics projects, have provided me with a unique position and perspective. That is summed up as follows: While manned aviation has approached an almost perfect safety record for airline travel, everything else the FAA touches dies. While experimental aircraft offer some hope, the industry is stagnant, and private pilots are a dying breed. The world of drones and “Small UAS” we have today was made possible by recent technological innovations, but it was in no small part also made possible by the freedom that individuals had to tinker and experiment without interference. Free of DO-178 and DO-254, with no requirements to design for safety or security, the art of aviation has seen a rebirth and renewal in the form of the miniature unmanned world. Engineers like myself, who grew up doing R/C, have started toward solving old problems in new ways. I had hoped, as a member of this movement, that the manned-aviation world would accept and encourage the innovations that we are making. The opposite has happened, with the FAA trying to apply to the unmanned world what it has accomplished on the manned one. The FAA would exile and forbid all of the open-source flight controller code that has been developed for the various multicopter flight controllers, and would require hardware and software to meet the same standards as manned aircraft. To design an R/C airplane and build it would be subject to the same mentality as that of building an experimental amateur built manned aircraft, requiring paperwork and inspections no doubt. Treating the ability to fly an R/C plane like a privilege to be earned, the FAA would require tests and exams, forced memberships in pesudo-clubs (for insurance), and would still only allow for flying in a small set of places. Flying anonymously and independently would not exist in their plan. This would not stop in just the small microcosm of “drones” and R/C; the worlds of Ultralights, Paragliders, and the like would be subject to the same future, for what is to stop an agency that can regulate aircraft the size of birds from destroying the freedom currently had in those forms? I’m not going participate in such theft. I’m not going to register, I’m not going to be forced to join a CBO, and I’m not going to stop flying and enjoying my art. I’m not going to be silent; I’m going to challenge the place and reasons for the existence of this Federal agency. I will draw up my own standards for equivalent level of safety and demonstrate that FPV, even long-range BVLOS model sailplane flying, is a valid and legitimate pastime which can be performed with minimal risk to fellow aviators, with minimal rules and standards. I’ve spent my life looking up at the birds, longing to fly with them; I’ve accomplished that in a measure, I’ve tasted of that dream of flight, and I will continue to look skyward and craft and fly of my own will and pleasure.”
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