Google, Amazon and others have asked Congress to require that model aircraft hobbyists be Federally licensed pilots and place radio transponders on all model aircraft. This would apply to everyone from the 8 ounce toys flown by children the legislation may ban youth from flying radio control aircraft) to typical hobby model planes.
Model airplane enthusiasts have been flying model aircraft since before the FAA was formed and have a safety record better than any other category of aircraft…. by far.
Google and Amazon are attempting to seize airspace for their own commercial operations. In economics this is classic rent-seeking behavior where industry intends to use regulation to seize assets (and profits) for itself. While Amazon and Google reap the financial benefits, the costs would be borne by hobbyists who receive no benefits.
Google and Amazon are hinting via their lobbying request that their drone technology does not actually work to see and avoid other aircraft – unless all other aircraft carry beacon transponders. This is akin to self driving car proponents (Uber, Tesla, Google, Apple, Amazon) requiring all cars carry transponders so their own self driving vehicles will work. It is similar to say, having cellular phone companies demand that all Wi-Fi users be licensed. This is known as a “land grab” by those who seek to use government’s power to seize others’ assets for their commercial operations.
Go here to send email and find phone numbers of Congressional representatives. Contact them urgently as this matter may be up for a vote shortly.
Update: The US House of Representatives approved H.R. 4, the FAA Reauthorization Bill, and retained protections for hobby flyers of radio controlled model aircraft. The bill will next go to the US Senate, which may not occur for several months, and then to a conference committee to negotiate differences between the House and Senate version of the bill. Approval is expected before the end of September, when current spending authority for the FAA ends.