FPV Drone Racing Industry is Rapidly Growing but at Risk in Los Angeles
Want to fly FPV in Los Angeles? There is a new proposed ruling by the LA city council that would completely ban all FPV flights including those done with a VLOS spotter and even in AMA sanctioned flying fields. If you are found flying FPV in Los Angeles you risk a $1,000 fine and/or 6 months in jail.
Brendan Schulman, the Drone Lawyer, explains what the proposal would mean below.
In the words of Mike Fortin, CEO of FAA Exempt filmmaking company Cinedrones:
“While I believe there should be rules and laws in place I feel as though the City of Los Angeles has taken a misinformed approach to trying to regulate a technology they know little about. No public hearings or consultation was made in regards to the new ordinance and therefore leaves much to be desired by those of us who want regulation but want it the right way and by people that have all of the information.
Sadly an ordinance like this effectively disbands any and all FPV racing events being held in a sanctioned and approved location. Furthermore if the letter of the law is followed this essentially criminalizes kids playing with “toy drones” that may be flying in their back yard.”
Lets take a look at the bill which can be viewed here. The city has taken FAA suggested rules and added even more restrictive legislation on top of that to the SEC. 56.31. UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEMS proposal.
Below I am focused on section (b)3. Section (b)3 states:
3. No Person shall operate any Model Aircraft within the City of Los Angeles beyond the visual line of sight of the person operating the Model Aircraft. The operator must use his or her own natural vision (which includes vision corrected by standard eyeglasses or contact lenses) to observe the Model Aircraft. People other than the operator may not be used in lieu of the operator for maintaining visual line of sight. Visual line of sight means that the operator has an unobstructed view of the Model Aircraft. The use of vision-enhancing devices, such as binoculars, night vision goggles, powered vision magnifying devices, and goggles or other devices designed to provide a “first-person view” from the model, do not constitute the visual line of sight of the person operating the Model Aircraft.
The City of Los Angeles explicitly states that First Person View flying “with the assistance of goggles or other vision devices” is explicitly illegal and can result in a $1,000 fine and/or 6 months jail time.
The proposed law in Los Angeles completely disregards the American Modeler Association’s rules that have been able to self regulate safe model aircraft aviation for the last 79 years. The AMA Document #550 Section 3(b) states “All FPV flights require an AMA FPV pilot to have an AMA FPV spotter next to him/her maintaining VLOS with the FPV aircraft throughout its flight.” People in the community are happy to follow AMA rules. We all love the hobby and will do whatever it takes to preserve these new traditions for generations to come.
The racing organization IDRA, or the International Drone Racing Association, hosted their 1st race in Los Angeles and is one of a few organizations organizing FPV events in the greater Los Angeles area. This ban would in effect take their races to the surrounding counties. View the latest episode of That Drone Show that highlights the most recent IDRA race in Orange County.
Drone Racing in Southern California
Charles Zablan, COO of the IDRA explains it like this:
“New technology especially ones with such great potential should not be feared for the negative uses that it could bring, but we should embrace the good that it could do. Robotics of any kind could greatly enhance our everyday experience. Whether it’s aiding in search and rescue, building and agriculture inspection, to drone racing. Aerial robotics, and drone technology has so many useful applications. Institutions such as the AMA exist to keep the technology safe. The potential for growth is greatly stunted by unsubstantiated fear mongering.”
This is not only a set back for the FPV racing community, but for the advocation of STEAM education. FPV is by far the most immersive and inspiring way to get young people involved in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math. Every child who see’s an FPV racing quadcopter flying in the air is in complete awe and wants to learn more. FPV flying is commonly referred to being like a ‘real life video game’. This type of activity has the ability to get kids out of the house from behind the computer screen and out into the world. There are many bright young minds out there and we will be missing this opportunity to inspire the next generation of innovators.
The sustainable future of FPV and anyone who wants to fly a drone in Los Angeles depends on this bill being vetoed. Please join with the FPV community in contacting the Los Angeles Mayor’s office and address your concerns in a constructive, nice, and educated way.