What's at stake? Potential regulations that could fundamentally alter the way we fly paramotors in the U.S.

An FAA rulemaking committee (ARC) has proposed a regulatory framework to safely integrate drones that fly beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) into the current airspace. Their final report includes recommendations that would place unsafe burdens and unfeasible requirements on the PPG community. This post contains all of the information regarding what is happening, what you can personally do about it, and what we (The USPPA) are doing to oppose the recommendations listed in the final report.

What is the timeline we're dealing with?

June 22, 2022 - The first public meeting was held. Comments are now closed.

July 26, 2022 - A second public meeting will be held. Written comments are open.
Time: 5:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. Eastern Time.
Location: Streamed Live on FAA's Facebook and YouTube channels.
Click here for meeting details. - FAA Page

August 2, 2022 - Deadline for written comments. Please share your comments!
Details for where, how, and why to post comments are listed below.

Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) | Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) | Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC)

The UAS BVLOS ARC was given the task to research what it would take to safely integrate BVLOS drones into the current airspace. Their findings and recommendations were published in a 381-page Final Report on March 10th, 2022.

The recommendation we are most concerned about is the right of way rules at low altitudes. Drones would have a blanket right of way over manned aircraft unless that aircraft has ADS-B.

These are drones that operate beyond a visual line of sight. Think of delivery drones for Amazon or humanitarian aid drones capable of dropping off aid packages or things like that. These are unmanned drones that are much larger, faster, and heavier than the drones we’re all used to seeing.

The recommend RIGHT OF WAY RULES will drastically affect us - The recommendation we are most concerned with is the recommendation to give BVLOS drones a blanket right of way over all manned aircraft (without ADS-B) at lower altitudes. That would mean that anytime we are flying at low altitudes (under 500 ft AGL) it would be our responsibility to see and avoid these drones. It would be impossible for us to see and avoid a drone if it's approaching from behind! Part of their reasoning for allowing this is that they believe that the airspace that's close to the ground, is not very busy. We are not opposed to having drones in the air, but we believe those drones should have an equal share in the responsibility to see and avoid other aircraft. 

Paramotors fly low (under 500 ft AGL) and DO NOT use ADS-B. We are not the only ones, the same scenario applies to many powered parachutes, ultralights, paragliders, lighter-than-air, agricultural operations (crop dusters), and many others. Luckily, we are not alone in voicing our concerns.

This is a very big deal! The current “final report” recommends right of way rules that place unsafe burdens and unfeasible requirements on the PPG community. These changes could very well end up requiring us to fundamentally change the way we fly. Imagine what it would be like if we were no longer allowed to fly low. Or what if we were suddenly required to fly with heavy, cumbersome instrumentation that is simply not feasible for our unique form of flight? 

We need to avoid these potential regulations at all costs!

Aside from the inconvenience of changes in regulations, we firmly believe that if we don’t do anything, there will be an increased risk of collisions between powered paragliders and BVLOS drones. It’s not just a matter of regulations, it’s a matter of safety for our sport!

No, we’re not against BVLOS drones entering the airspace. We understand that drones are part of the future and we welcome this incredible technology into the airspace where we regularly fly. We are concerned about HOW drones get incorporated into our complex airspace and how that will affect the thousands of pilots that occupy this same airspace on a daily basis. Our strategy is to ensure that the FAA takes powered paragliders and other similar aircraft into consideration when they decide HOW to incorporate BVLOS drones.

There was already one public meeting last month. The good news is that they have decided to host another public meeting on July 26, 2022, from 5:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. Eastern Time. They will allow us to post comments before, during, and after the meeting. We must voice our concerns and share our comments BY August 2nd, 2022!

You don’t need to participate in the actual meeting but it would be great if you could post your comments so they can take them into consideration AND they can be aware of how many of us actually care about this issue. Remember, the FAA is a government entity…and numbers matter to them. They are more likely to pay attention if there are large numbers of participants AND comments!

Click here to visit the page that has all the meeting details.

Remember: Written comments can still be made AFTER the public meeting. Written comments will be accepted through August 2, 2022. Please submit a comment! What should your comment say? We've provided instructions and a template below to help you get started...

The easiest way for members of the public to make a comment is to send an email.
You can also call to submit your comments by phone (202) 267-8076

Send your email to this address: [email protected] 
Recommended subject line: Attention Laura E. Gomez / UAS BVLOS ARC

What should your email say?

Previously we had suggested an email template but constructive feedback from the community helped us realize that unique comments are far more powerful than having the same comment submitted multiple times from different people.

Your email should mention your name, where you live (City, State), and what aircraft you fly (PPG under Part 103).

Your email should express concern about the recommendation found in the UAS BVLOS ARC to grant a blanket right of way to BVLOS drones over manned aircraft at low altitudes, not using ADS-B.

In other words, they are recommending that any manned aircraft that's flying low (under 400 ft) AND isn't using ADS-B will have to give way to any unmanned BVLOS drone. This affects Paramotors (because we fly low AND we don't have ADS-B) but it also affects some helicopters, hot air balloons, paragliders, and several other aircraft. Let them know WHY you are concerned. Feel free to offer counter recommendations if you have any. You can suggest they make it possible for FAR 103 vehicles to be able to obtain an N-number and therefore an ADS-B unit. Or you can recommend that drones share equal responsibility to see and avoid, or any other recommendations you might think of.

You can read our official comment below for more ideas and inspiration. The important thing is that you submit your own unique comment so they can take it into consideration for the upcoming meeting.

The USPPA has issued an official statement that has been mailed to the FAA and has also been submitted as a comment for the upcoming public meeting. Here is our official statement.

Official USPPA Comment

Emailed to Laura E. Gomez at [email protected] 

To Laura E. Gomez, the FAA, UAS Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) Aviation Rulemaking Committee, and to whomever else, it may concern,

The United States Powered Paragliding Association (USPPA) represents approximately 7500 current and former members who fly powered paragliders (AKA paramotors) in the United States. Since 2001, the mission of the USPPA has been to preserve, promote, and enhance the sport of powered paragliding. While our mission is primarily focused on the powered paragliding community, we recognize and acknowledge the rapid growth and interest in drones. We also recognize the importance of supporting the development and safe integration of the BVLOS drone industry. 

We acknowledge that the BVLOS ARC report offers some good recommendations to the FAA that will promote the safe expansion of BVLOS drone operations. However, the USPPA has significant concerns about the recommended right of way rules based on equipage or shielded operations. Such a change would certainly place unsafe burdens and unfeasible requirements on not only powered paragliders, but also paragliders, hot air balloons, powered parachutes, ultralights, antique aircraft, agricultural operations, and many other aircraft that operate regularly, safely, and legally at the low altitudes and geographical locations envisioned in the ARC recommendations.

We believe this sweeping recommendation by the committee to recommend right of way rules, fails to recognize the reality of just how many aircraft routinely operate at lower altitudes. In a recent DronePro Update, even the FAA recognized the reality of aircraft operations at lower altitudes:

“The risk of midair collisions between drones and traditional aircraft is greatest when they both share the same airspace. The belief that traditional aircraft only operate at altitudes above 500 feet is a common misconception among drone pilots. The regulation that establishes the minimum flying altitude for traditional aircraft is published in 14 CFR 91.119. Except for takeoff and landing, most fixed-wing aircraft typically operate above 500 feet. However, this is not the case with helicopters. Helicopters often fly below 400 feet and routinely share the same airspace as their drone counterparts.” (March 1, 2022)

In addition to helicopters, there are thousands of powered paragliders, paragliders, powered parachutes, and other ultralight aircraft flying at low altitudes every day in uncontrolled airspace. The view that very few aircraft operate at low altitudes is simply not accurate.

The USPPA also has significant concern with the BVLOS ARC leadership’s recommendation to rely on ADS-B as a tool for collision avoidance and to use that line of thought for further justification for recommending these right of way rules. ADS-B is unfeasible for powered paragliders and many other low altitude aircraft. Furthermore, ADS-B was not originally designed for what the report is proposing and therefore should not be relied upon as an effective way to prevent a collision between a BVLOS drone and a powered paraglider. 

The USPPA believes that all aviators have a shared responsibility to see and avoid other aircraft. Some of the recommendations in the final report seem to aim to distribute the collision avoidance responsibilities by making changes to right of way rules at low altitudes. We believe that these recommendations would NOT result in shared responsibility. In fact, we believe they would result in shifting the risk of collision avoidance to unwilling/unknowing individuals that are already routinely and legally flying safely at low altitudes.

In conclusion, the USPPA respectfully recommends that right of way rules should be based on maneuverability, with no blanket right of way rules for BVLOS drones over manned aircraft without ADS-B. We also recommend the FAA to not rely on ADS-B as a tool for collision avoidance.



USPPA / United States Powered Paragliding Association

Noah Rasheta, President
Alex Donaghy, Vice President
Brad Hill, Treasurer
Heath Woods, Treasurer

We're happy to report that we are not alone! Several air sports organizations are involved in voicing concern and dissent. Among them are: Aerospace Industries Association, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), Air Line Pilots Association, General Aviation Manufacturers Association, Helicopter Association International (HAI), Praxis Aerospace Concepts, and several smaller organizations are starting to get involved too: Balloon Federation, USHPA, USPPA, and others. If you belong to any other aviation-related organizations, please make them aware of this report so they can get involved with expressing their concerns.