Saturday, March 14, 2015

A plea to the model aviation community

Our legislative problem

Unless you've been incredibly busy flying (in which case, I'm jealous!), you will have noticed that a lot of jurisdictions are considering, or have enacted, laws governing model aircraft. Actually the laws usually deal with drones, or if you have better educated politicians, unmanned aerial vehicles or systems.
These laws are a problem for us, the rc model aircraft enthusiasts, because they almost always include our models. Nuts, in at least one case, it unintentionally included kites!

The source of the problem

The problems these rules are trying to solve usually revolve around safety, privacy, or both. The model aviation community has had a very good record in these areas until recently. That's because we learned the appropriate rules as part of learning how to fly.
Actually, the community still has a very good record. But today, you can go into a gadget store and buy a drone for a small price compared to what we're used to paying for our aircraft. It may even come with sophisticated flight control software capable of aerobatic maneuvers with no training whatsoever. People flying these who aren't part of our community haven't had to learn how to fly, and as a consequence haven't learned the rules that have kept our record clean. These people are the source of the incidents that are causing calls for legislation.

Our response

For the most part, our response to such legislation has been that they were ludicrous. A lot of them are, especially if they are that jurisdictions first response. The people writing the law in these cases are unfamiliar with the hobby and the technology behind it. Second attempts seem more reasonable, but in many cases things are still being worked out.

And the problem with it

Some of the members of our community look at the fact that it's RTF aircraft that cause the problem, and think the solution is to ban those. They seem to think that if you're not building your aircraft, you're not part of the community, so the ban won't affect the community.
This response is every bit as ludicrous as those initial legislative proposals. Yes, a lot of people in the hobby enjoy building aircraft, and it used to be a requirement. While the availability of RTF multirotors has caused the problem, RTF and similar aircraft have opened the hobby up to a lot of people who wouldn't otherwise be members of our community. On the whole, this is a good thing.
Our community covers a lot of ground. Just as there are both people who enjoy flying scale fixed wing aircraft with liquid fuel, and people flying small electric multirotors FPV, there are people who enjoy building and others who don't. Excluding people from the community based on such criteria is silly.
For instance, I don't fly FPV. That doesn't mean that people who do aren't members of my community, and there's no way I'd try to treat them as such. And I don't want to see their safe flying banned.
I'd rather fly than build, so only one of my aircraft isn't a BNF or RTF. Nothing as remotely resembling a kit as even a receiver-ready aircraft. The one kit is a multirotor using a frame I designed and 3d printed, because I enjoy doing 3d design work and 3d printing enough to make up for my dislike of building kits. I'd never propose a law that would keep someone from flying just because they'd rather take the easy path and buy a frame instead of designing one themselves
Similarly, I'm the founder of team deviationTx. We use firmware we wrote on our transmitters, because we enjoy the extra flexibility and control that gives us. It's a lot like building a kit instead of using an RTF or similar aircraft. Most transmitters come out of the box ready to fly, and most of them, unlike most of my aircraft, have no way to upgrade them except those provided by the manufacturer. I don't think someone who uses a transmitter without working on the software on it deserves to be banned from the hobby - at least, not so long as they fly safely.

The plea

Please, don't be like the politicians proposing rules without bothering to research the hobby that created the technology they are legislating. Think about what your proposing, and how it will affect members of the community who may not share your tastes. Don't propose excluding them for being different.