Radio-controlled planes, or RC planes, cannot take to the skies everywhere...at least not legally. In the United States, the laws vary from place to place, with some prohibiting RC planes within the city limits or in parks, beaches and other areas where people gather. In the U.K., flying is generally banned altogether in public places. Flying in the vicinity of airports is prohibited because the RC frequencies could interfere with airport communications. The hobbyist should check local regulations and bylaws to learn where flying is allowed. Frequency interference in some locations can cause the hobbyist to lose control of the plane, which can have serious results. Penalties can include significant fines.
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Gas-powered vs. Electric
There are a variety of radio-controlled planes, most of them falling into the gas-powered or electric categories. Some city and county ordinances vary based on whether the RC plane has an electric motor or a gas-powered one, as the latter can cause more damage if it crashes and gasoline ignites. Some cities ban gas-powered planes while allowing electric ones or gliders. In addition, some ordinances specify a size limit to the RC plane, banning the giant models that can weigh more than 45.4 Kilogram.
In addition to local laws that restrict the use of RC planes, federal laws cover the "frequency" the planes are flown at. Toy aeroplanes--typically used by children rather than RC hobbyists--fly on frequencies of 27MHz or 49MHz. RC hobby-grade planes fly on a wider range of frequencies, which allows multiple people to fly in the same area. Planes flying in the same location must each be set at a different frequency to avoid the aircraft being accidentally taken over by other pilots or plummeting because of too many signals coming in. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulates the public airwaves in the US and has designated 72.10MHz to 72.990MHz for hobby-grade RC planes. There are 50 frequency bands, or channels, within the range. Violating the FCC regulations can result in fines.
Many RC plane organisations require their members to purchase liability insurance, regardless of whether local laws dictate it. Sometimes the insurance is included with a membership in the organisation. RC planes, especially gas-powered ones, can damage property and injure people if they crash; the larger the model, the more potential for problems. Liability policies are available through insurance companies. The Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) also sells insurance policies to cover up to £0.6 million.
Finding Laws and Rules
Hobbyists wanting to find local laws relating to RC planes should contact their city or county offices. Some of the information is available on the Internet. In addition, local RC plane clubs are a good source for learning where it is legal and prohibited for flying. Some RC plane magazines list places designed for RC planes.
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