FAA License Now Required to Fly RC Aircraft

Alan Friedman

The Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) new Recreational UAS (Unmanned Aircraft Systems) Safety Test (TRUST) requirement is now in effect. This new regulation requires all flyers of unmanned aircraft, which include airplanes, helicopters, gliders, and drones, to pass a knowledge test. The test is free and can be taken online from the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) website, modelaircraft.org, or from the FAA Information page on the Casa Grande RC Flyers website, casagrandercflyers.com. A certificate of passage will be issued upon successful completion of that requirement and will be required to be shown to law enforcement personnel who so request. Flying any unmanned aircraft anywhere without that certificate is a violation of the new federal law.

Then, starting in September 2023, all aircraft flown must meet one of three requirements. The aircraft must contain an electronic device similar to a large airplane transponder, which will identify the aircraft and its location to the federal agency. New model aircraft manufactured and sold after implantation of the regulation, may contain this device automatically. These devices or aircraft must then be registered with the FAA. For aircraft without this device included, a broadcast module can be purchased and registered with the FAA, and be placed in any model aircraft used after the rule goes into effect. The devices are expected to cost less than $50 each and must be registered with the FAA. Lastly, under the new law, any aircraft flown in a location designated as an FAA-Recognized Identification Area (FRIA) will be exempt from the above module requirements. Many AMA locations, such as the Casa Grande RC Flyers airfield, expect to be designated as FRIA and pilots at FRIA sites must still pass the TRUST knowledge test.

The FAA is expected to monitor compliance and has the ability to impose penalties to those who do not follow the new regulations. The new rules will add to the cost of the hobby except to those who use FRIA-designated airfields.