News Local/State

Davis Says Smaller Drones Should Be Exempt From FAA Rules

A Horizon Hobby Blade Zeyrock micro-drone.

A Blade Zeyrock micro-drone, made by Horizon Hobby, flies over the Horizon Hobby parking lot in Champaign. Jim Meadows / Illinois Public Media

An Illinois congressman says lightweight drones designed for the hobby market should be free of the federal regulations governing bigger models for commercial and military use.

U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Taylorville) detailed his proposal Wednesday on the law outside Horizon Hobby’s central offices in Champaign. There, company employees held races with some of their products, so-called micro-drones weighing less than 4.4 pounds each. Horizon has a division that designs and distributes drones for commercial use. But these smaller drones are made with hobbyists in mind. Another Champaign company, Hobbico, also competes in the micro-drone category.

Davis says birds this small don’t pose a danger to airplanes when they’re accidentally sucked into jet engine intakes. And he says micro-drones of this size don’t need the same stringent regulations as larger unmanned aircraft. Davis is proposing that they be exempted them from Federal Aviation Administration regulations, as long as they’re operated at altitudes below 400 feet, within line of sight and more than five miles from any airport.

“You hear the drones flying behind me?” Davis said to reporters as the Horizon Hobby drones raced by. “Those aren’t the militarized, silver, large aircraft that have weapons to take out terrorists in a war zone. These are new age model aircraft. And the FAA shouldn’t be determining whether or not you can hook a camera on, and fly over your own property.”

Davis has introduced his proposal as an amendment to an FAA reauthorization bill in the House, and was able to get it included as one of the revisions proposed by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. He wants the U-S to follow Canada, Mexico and Australia in exempting micro-drones from regulation.