The Commercial Drone Alliance (the Alliance) has asked Congress to repeal Section 336 of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Modernization and Reform Act (FMRA) of 2012. The Alliance believes that differentiating model aircraft users, including unmanned aerial systems (UAS or drone) pilots,  from commercial drone pilots poses a safety risk in the national airspace. The Alliance insists that all UAS pilots should abide by the same ‘rules of the road.’

Currently, Section 336 prohibits the FAA from regulating qualifying model aircraft. The Alliance asserts that this exemption has been misinterpreted and abused, giving all model aircraft users, including those not participating in a Community Based Organization as required under the law, the impression that they are operating their drones in accordance with the law. Co-executive Director of the Alliance, Lisa Ellman, said, “We understand why model aircraft proponents want to remain exempt, as they have been flying safely for decades. However, times, have changed, and hobbyists are no longer flying alone.”

The Alliance requests that Congress include new language in the 2018 FAA Reauthorization Act to enable the FAA to regulate drones and the national airspace in a common sense way.

The Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) responded to the Alliance’s plea to Congress, stating, “AMA’s No. 1 priority is the safety of our nation’s skies. Through Section 336, AMA safely manages 200,000 members –as the organization has done for more than eighty years –freeing up scarce FAA resources to advance commercial drone regulations and other priorities.” Further, the AMA said, “We also recognize that remote identification requirements make sense at an appropriate threshold of weight and capability, such as for more sophisticated drones. That’s why we are actively working with Congress, the manned aviation community and the UAS industry on policy solutions to these challenges within the framework of Section 336.”

An extension to the reauthorization act had been scheduled to expire, but Congress included a new extension in the latest spending bill, which moved the deadline to September.