As DCist reported, the FAA called Adam Eidinger, owner of the missing-but-now-found drone in Washington, D.C. The agency also wrote him an email on the same day Eidinger tweeted that his drone had been located. It closely tracks the conversation Ben described concerning the Smackdown---which, Ben says, was also followed by a substantially similar email:
From: Thomas T. Moore
Date: September 21, 2012 11:40:26 AM EDT
To: Adam Eidinger
Subject: Mintwood Media Unmanned Aircraft Operations
Mr. Adam Eidenger,
It was a pleasure talking with you last week about your Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) flight recently. Thank you for saying that you will not fly UAS in the Washington flight restricted zone (FRZ) nor fly UAS for compensation or hire.
Since the events of 9/11, there is a FRZ around Washington, DC. Because you said you are not a licensed pilot, I explained in our telephone conversation that a long standing Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) has been issued, part of which reads:
D1. THE FOLLOWING OPERATIONS ARE NOT AUTHORIZED WITHIN THE DC FRZ: ..., MODEL AIRCRAFT OPERATIONS, MODEL ROCKETRY, ... UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEMS (UAS) ...
Here is a link to this NOTAM: http://tfr.faa.gov/save_pages/detail_0_8326.html.
Currently, the FAA authorizes UAS operations by three means:
1. Certificate of Authorization (COA). This authorization is an approved exemption that allows recognized public entities, i.e. federal, state, and municipal government related agencies and organizations, to self certify their aircraft and conduct operations in accordance with the certificate after approval. The FAA reviews the operation to ensure it is in the public interest, safe, operated by only the proponent, and does not significantly impact the safety of other air traffic or persons on the ground. To issue a COA normally takes about 60 business days once the proponent completes application and verifies its status as a public entity. Mr. Eidenger, since your company is not a public entity, a COA does not apply to your operation.
2. Special Authorization Certificate in the Experimental Category. For civil operators, the FAA can issue an experimental aircraft certificate in accordance with Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 21. This allows for testing and development of the aircraft, market development, and training of pilots and crew members for prospective clients. (See attached FAA Order 8130.34B, Certification.)
3. Advisory Circular 91-57 for recreational hobbyists. Those who use UAS only for recreational enjoyment and not for compensation or hire, operate in accordance with Advisory Circular 91-57. This generally applies to operations in remotely populated areas away from airports, persons and buildings, below 400 feet Above Ground Level (AGL) and within visual line of sight. The FAA Re-authorization Act of 2012, now Public Law 112-95, dated February 14, 2012, Section 336, also defines Model Aircraft, restricting their operation to visual line of sight operations and to hobby or recreational purposes. The AC 91-57 link is: http://rgl.faa.gov/Regulatory_and_Guidance_Library/rgAdvisoryCircular.nsf/0/1ACFC3F689769A56862569E70077C9CC?OpenDocument&Highlight=91.
These restrictions for UAS operations are necessary at this time due to the technical pace of UAS development and the proliferation of aircraft in National Airspace System (NAS). Their potential use has grown exponentially. This has caused the FAA to put into effect some regulatory limits to ensure the public safety since most of the UAS currently available are not certified, manufactured, or maintained to the standards of manned aircraft. Similarly, most pilots wishing to fly UAS are not trained, certified, or familiar with the Code of Federal Regulations nor the NOTAM system to ensure the safety of others. The FAA currently does not allow any UAS operation to be conducted for commercial purposes; so the liability implications of such operations without authorization could be devastating to the person operating the UAS should an unfortunate accident occur.
More information regarding UAS use can be found at the FAA UAS Integration Office’s website: http://www.faa.gov/about/initiatives/uas/. The FAA is working diligently to incorporate UAS into the NAS and has been directed by Congress to integrate UAS by September 2015.
Please contact me with any questions.
Thomas T. Moore
Aviation Safety Inspector
FAA UAS Integration Office
490 L'Enfant Plaza, Suite 3200, Washington DC, 20224