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Response swells in final days of FAA drone comment period

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After more than two weeks of barely registering a blip on the Federal Aviation Administration's radar, a late wave of interested members of the public have taken to the Internet and weighed in on proposed regulations on domestic use of drones.

On June 23, The FAA opened public comment for the interpretation of its Special Rule for Model Aircraft, which covers radio-controlled planes and helicopters and drones for commercial and hobby use.

The comment period launched in conjunction with the agency's publication of an advisory notice stating that model aircraft and drones should "not interfere with manned aircraft, be flown within sight of the operator and be operated only for hobby or recreational purposes." In addition the guidelines state that operators flying within five miles of an airport must notify the airport operator and air traffic control tower."

During the first 18 days of comment fewer than 3,000 people offered opinions at the Regulations.gov website. The low number represents a near universal silence from the hundreds of thousands of small-business owners and amateur enthusiasts who use radio-controlled aircraft and drones in the United States.

However, by the last days of the open period, which closes Friday, nearly 25,000 comments have been received, and more flow in as the hours tick down.

Comments from model-aircraft and radio-control enthusiasts show overwhelming objection to the FAA's guidelines, saying the need to alert an airport to the use of a drone tens of feet from the ground constitutes a "draconian" measure. In addition, many also cite the "within sight" rule as overly restrictive because many users employ first-person-view controls, which allow pilots to see where the aircraft is going via a mounted camera.

Many attribute the late wave of comments to the Academy of Model Aeronautics, a 165,000-member association that supports model and radio-controlled aircraft hobbyists and business owners. The group recently posted numerous calls to action to members via newsletters, emails and videos asking them to weigh in on the rules before the deadline expired.

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