Vern

Starr

, Lilburn

, Georgia

, United States

Posted on
2020-02-19 1:20:17
“I’ve been flying since October 2014. At first I only flew prebuilt palm sized toy-grade drones, but as I got deeper into it I started building my own from scratch and now own a large fleet of high performance quads. I love picking my own components (motors, ESCs, frames, flight controllers, etc) and assembling them myself, and I take a lot of pride in my finished builds. My focus has always been FPV. I wanted to get a Phantom when they first started becoming popular, but couldn’t figure out exactly what I would do with it (fly it up high and stare up at it from the ground? No thanks!), so I never got one. Eventually I saw a video of guys racing FPV quads in a forest in France and was immediately hooked. I said, “What is THAT? Whatever that is, I’m going to do THAT.” And so I did! It’s a little over 5 years later, and I’ve never looked back. When I was younger, I had frequent and vivid dreams about flying. Not in a plane or any other vehicle, but just me, zipping through the air. Some of these dreams were terrifying, some were a delight, but they were all exhilarating. Sadly these dreams have become less and less frequent over the years, and I have missed them. I don’t miss them quite as much anymore, because now I can go out and fly whenever I want. It’s really brought something to my life that I wouldn’t have had otherwise – both the flying itself, and the new friendships I’ve developed as a result. Flying helped me get through my divorce, and the very rough years since. It’s like an out of body experience. For those few minutes while I’m flying each pack, the level of concentration is so great that every other thing in life just… goes away. It’s been a literal life saver, and I can’t imagine my life without it. When I heard of the RID NPRM, I was devastated. Emotionally, it feels like someone put a knife to the throat of a loved one. I understand that things have changed somewhat since the original proposal, but from what I’ve been seeing, it will still almost completely eradicate the hobby I’ve come to love. All my quads are scratch-built, and would therefore be outlawed entirely. Even if that requirement was changed, I have somewhere between 10 and 15 quads of various configurations. From what I can tell, to do the type of flying I’m used to, each one would have to be outfitted with technology that basically doesn’t exist yet, at minimum including a cellular data connection for each one. For me and my fleet, this would be financially impossible. FRIAs are another possibility, but the nearest AMA site is well over an hour away from me, on the opposite side of Atlanta. Even if they welcomed FPV drones (which they may not), that drive would basically cripple my ability to fly. And even if I were able to go there every day, it’s just a big open field. For an FPV pilot, that’s mind-numbingly dull. We need trees and other obstacles to interact with, or it’s almost not worth doing. I’ve seen a lot of statements saying that the FAA thinks 90-something percent of existing drones would be made compatible by a simple firmware update. This simply does not apply to anything I own. Everything I fly has a 1-way control link, and a returning video signal. And that’s it! No GPS, no autonomous control, nothing. It’s all manual flight control, and a firmware update isn’t going to change that. I think a lot of my concerns would be alleviated by defining the weight classes differently. There’s a huge difference between a 50 or 100 pound flying camera rig or delivery drone, and a 1.5 pound hobbyist drone or other RC airplane, and they should absolutely not be regulated in the same way. To prevent the extinction of the entire hobby of RC flying, I think anything below 2-3 pounds should be exempt from most if not all regulations requiring cellular data connections and geofencing and the other more extreme proposed regulations. I also think that there need to be some further exemptions carved out for hobbyist pilots – for both drones and traditional model airplane flyers. I’ve been seeing something about “shielded operations” in New Zealand, maybe? Where if you are flying beneath the height of nearby objects, you are exempt from certain airspace rules. I’ve always thought to myself, that if a plane or helicopter got near enough to my quad that we might collide, they are going to have plenty of OTHER problems – since I’m flying below the tree height or sometimes even amongst the trees themselves. If I’m in an aircraft’s way at that point, many other things have already gone *significantly* wrong to the point that a drone’s proximity is meaningless. I gather that some sort of “digital license plate” is the minimum goal, and for the most part I agree and I don’t mind that at all, but I can’t see it working under the current proposal. If the intent is to be able to identify who is flying what and where, it seems like an ID code could be piggybacked into existing radio frequency traffic – either in the control link, or the video signal coming back (if applicable). Even if we just attached some kind of transponder to each model, powered by the flight battery, that broadcast either a pilot ID code, or a unique identifier for each craft, that should be good enough. I don’t know. Something has to be done to save this hobby. I’m terrified that this is going to take away one of the best things in my life. Every time I look up, now, it seems unthinkable that someone is going to legislate away access to the sky. And yet here we are, and that seems to be exactly what’s coming. None of us pilots have the financial clout to compete with the corporate interests that seem to be driving certain aspects of RID. But I live here, this is my sky too. Please don’t let them take it away from me.”
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