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Model Plane Fliers to Get Real-Time, Location-Based Flight Safety Info

May 6, 2015  - By

Photo: B4UFLY iOS appToday’s second announcement of a new UAV-related initiative by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was directed at private citizens: model airplane enthusiasts and hobbyists, also called modelers — not at industry or commercial use. See this story for information on the Pathfinder program for commercial drone use.

A soon-to-be released smartphone app will proved users with real-time information on flight regulations, and restrictions for the user’s actual location; alternately, for a location to which the user is planning to travel to for a model plane flight. Named B4UFly, the app is designed to answer for users, “Is it safe and is it legal to fly my model aircraft based on where I am right now?” The overall goal is to encourage responsible use of model aircraft.

The B4UFLY iOS app will be made available to 1,000 iPhone beta testers this summer. The first 700 emails received by B4UFLY@faa.gov will make up the initial limited beta test group. The email is for model aircraft hobbyists only, who want to sign up for beta test. B4UFLY Version 1 for iOS will go out to the general public later this year. An Android app will come later.

“Someone who got their first UAV as a gift probably does not know [the rules governing flight and airspace operation],” said Jim Williams, the manager of the FAA’s Unmanned Aircraft Integration office. “It’s a knowledge gap that is very very important that we fill. Hobbyists and modelers need to know that there are very real consequences if you don’t have that knowledge. The recent Incident on the White House lawn provides a perfect case in point.”  

The app was developed in cooperation with the MITRE Corporation. Key features of the B4UFLY app include:

  • A clear “status” indicator that immediately informs operators about their current or planned location.
    Information on the parameters that drive the status indicator.
  • A “Planner Mode” for future flights in different locations.
  • Informative, interactive maps with filtering options.
  • Contact information for nearby airports.
  • Links to other FAA UAS resources and regulatory information.

The FAA’s Know Before You Fly campaign launched just prior to Christmas last year was a preliminary step in this effort.

Williams prefaced his remarks with, “These model planes and copters are ready to go, right out of the box.  I know, I have one.” He then guided press through a brief look a clips and demo of the app’s key features. The app will provide real-time access to rules, requirements and restrictions based on location, and suggests specific actions to take if the user is:

  • within five miles of an airport 
  • within a national park
  • within a restricted airspace (such as Washington, D.C.); and so.  

The app will access the user’s location to automatically furnish this information. There is also a planning mode to see what data is available for a planned location to which you are preparing to go, although you are not there yet.

“Unmanned aircraft should always yeild the right of way to manned aircraft,” Williams stressed. “This is not the be-all and end-all of when and where you can fly. It does not alleviate the user’s responsibility to operate safely.”

In response to questions, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta clarified that the FAA currently issues flight restriction covering large public events, such as the Master’s golf tournament.

This article is tagged with , , , , and posted in Latest News, UAV/UGV

About the Author:


Alan Cameron is the former editor-at-large of GPS World magazine.

2 Comments on "Model Plane Fliers to Get Real-Time, Location-Based Flight Safety Info"

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  1. 7 May 2015 | thrustandpropwash | May 7, 2015
  1. shan says:

    this can help many people.. but it´s better if we can download it to goole play store.