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July 24, 2014

UAV Rules At Burning Man

The Burning Man org recently promulgated its revised rules for UAVs/drones which are based on the FAA rules and one more year of real world (by "real world" I mean the playa) experience. They were just sort of dropped out there harshly with little explanation. But "The System" (that's his playa name) the Air Commander for the Black Rock City Airport has provided some explanation and expansion on Reddit. He even provides a good reason for the ban on FPV, which makes sense on the playa, but not every other place. I'm just going to copy the whole thing here:

Hi All,

My playa name is The System and I am the Air Commander for Black Rock City Municipal Airport. My job is to oversee and manage the airspace that occupies Black Rock City. FireFly who is my RCBRC manager directed me to this site.

I am glad you are all talking about the new rules, policies and procedures we have in place this year. I know some of you will like them, some will not and everyone else will fall in-between. This is expected and I have similar conversations going on with the Aviators as well.

If you haven't seen the RCBRC rules and registered, please go to 88nv.burningman.com and look under the RCBRC tab. It is all there.

When we came up with this program it was with much thought and respect for the RC community and a burning desire to see the RC community thrive and grow. FireFly is an avid member of that community and with 25 years experience is very well qualified. He has set-up RC safety programs before.

Our goal is safety first. Safety for the citizens of Black Rock City. Through personal experiences, videos of multi-copters posted last year and other sources it was very apparent that we needed to create a new department. There was a bunch of very dangerous and bad flying out there. Flying over very large crowds, flying at the airport where airplane operations are taking place. Are you kidding me? There was more and because of this, rules were created.

Burning Man has a history of this. Behavior "X" is cool, then gets a little out of hand, then really out of hand, then rules come into play. There are no more guns allowed, airplanes can't land by the Man anymore, vehicles cannot be driven. All of these and more came about when things got out of hand and in some cases, after deaths occurred.

I hear RC pilots say that this is an at your own risk event. To a point that is true. If you climb a structure, fall and get seriously injured that was your fault. You get hit by an out of control RC flying something, that is not your fault. That is the fault and responsibility of the RC pilot.
With radical self reliance also comes radical self accountability, not radical selfishness. You are free to express yourself but you are not free to hurt other people either physically or emotionally.

I like the new Multi-copters. 1st video I saw of Niagara Falls I wanted one. I used to fly RC Airplanes with 3.5hp gas motors back in the day. So I do have some experience with RC. When you learn to fly an RC Airplane you need to join a local RC club and have someone teach you. They don't fly right out of the box. They crash really well though! During your training you learn the rules for safe model flight, what to do and not to do. You understand why the rules are there.

This doesn't happen with multi-copters except maybe in the rare instance. Bring them home, they fly right out of the box, on your own, no instruction and no acculturation to the sport and no appreciation for the limitations of your RC model. This is a huge problem and one we are taking the world-wide lead in trying to solve.

To solve this or at least begin to, we have set up a firm set of rules and guidelines. We are requiring each member of the RC community who wishes to fly to register their aircraft. There is an educational component to this process both pre-playa and on-playa. Airplane pilots btw who are rigorously trained to FAA standards have to do a similar but far more in depth program. We are not picking on the RC community.

Responding to some of the general themes below. Will we enforce he new rules? Absolutely. If you violate the rules what will happen? Depends on you. At a minimum your RC transmitter and aircraft will be taken away and stored. You may pick it up when you are ready to leave the Event.

FPV. Absolutely forbidden. The problem with FPV is technical in nature. The bandwidth for FPV flying is very very small and only so many people can be on it at a time or you run into radio interference problems and aircraft crashing because they get the wrong signals. If we had all FPV pilots in one area taking turns it might be feasible. The problem arises when someone on the other side of the Event starts using theirs and someone else does and you don't know about it and too many people get involved.

Have a question, ask FireFly about it. He is my expert. Have a problem that he cannot help you with, come and see me. I am at the Airport and available by radio and pager.

I am going to close with the following thought for you to consider. You have all heard the phrase, Are you part of the problem or are you part of the solution? You have that choice to make this year and this is how it will most likely play out. If, as a community, you abide by the rules then next year we can probably expand the number of RCers and continue to build the program and show the world what is possible. Or, you can be radically selfish, do what you want and screw everyone else and the RC program could easily close and RC's will be banned from Burning Man. This is happening all over the world right now. Major concerts and festivals are banning RC use. My counterpart in AfrikaBurn told me they banned RC period. Too much risk. I think we can do better and show the world, literally, that RC's can be flown safely, respectfully and with care at Burning Man which may lead to other festivals opening their doors to your hobby.

It is your choice.

System Air Commander Black Rock City Airport

Filed under Burning Man,Photography | permalink | July 24, 2014 at 11:25 AM

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