Manned Multi-copter question

HomeBuiltAirplanes.com

Help Support HomeBuiltAirplanes.com:

bmcj

Well-Known Member
HBA Supporter
Joined
Apr 10, 2007
Messages
13,396
Location
Fresno, California
Someone here, a licensed pilot, has a homebuilt manned multirotor craft that falls easily under Part 103 weight limits (it weighs 84 lbs). He has hovered it a few times, but someone must have reported him because he has received a letter from the FAA informing him of heavy fines, penalties and charges that he might face if he flies it unregistered.

My question is, doesn’t this legally qualify as an ultralight that can be flown under the Part 103 rules without registration? Barring that, he could register it under experimental/exhibition or research, but is that any better?

Aside from my question above, he also said that it can be flown remotely like a hobbyist drone... anyone care to weigh in on this aspect and the rules? Can it be operated as Part 103 and Part 107 (even though it exceeds typical Part 107 weights, I think)?
 

Dana

Super Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Apr 3, 2007
Messages
9,259
Location
CT, USA
Has he informed the FAA that it meets the ultralight requirements? Ultralight helicopters are allowed, a multicopter shouldn't be any different.
 

Jay Kempf

Curmudgeon in Training (CIT)
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Apr 13, 2009
Messages
3,944
Location
Warren, VT USA
The FAA is having a hard time with how the quad copter world is progressing. They can't assess stall speed, wing area, fuel max capacity, max speed, weight limits, etc... So they don't know what to do. So if they get tipped off of something they don't like and they think violates their interpretation of the rules then it's a problem for that person. That plus they are now a minimum registration of multi copters. So you're subjecting yourself to being told no if you tell them and your subject to getting them mad if you don't.

What I find interesting is that people don't consider this and chronicle their entire life in social media and then their surprised when the FAA somehow started to watch.

If you register a multi-copter with them and you happen to accidentally sit on it occasionally is that a violation? Depends on the definition is was registered under. Is it unmanned? if it does'n say unmanned on the registration then the first person that does it will get a hand slap and a nasty letter before the rule changes. Just like taxes.

There are ways to certify everything. Questions is is it worth it to the person that wants to do that. A manned electric multicopter is going to have to clear some hurdles with the FAA. I know a company that is doing just that. Have done some work for them and they have a FAA approved test program underway. There are others. But I don't see someone home depot sourced back yard program surviving the cost of that process.
 

Topaz

Super Moderator
Staff member
Log Member
Joined
Jul 29, 2005
Messages
14,110
Location
Orange County, California
Sounds like he's falling in the uncomfortably hazy area between Part 103 and Part 107. It's too heavy for the usual definition of the latter, and would need to be registered anyway, which he hasn't done, it seems. The moment someone jumps in, it's Part 103... unless it's registered under Part 107 and therefore cannot carry a person.

As Jay says, the FAA hasn't caught up to this newly developing overlap in the Part 103-Part 107 Venn DIagram.
 

BBerson

Light Plane Philosopher
HBA Supporter
Joined
Dec 16, 2007
Messages
13,274
Location
Port Townsend WA
My question is, doesn’t this legally qualify as an ultralight that can be flown under the Part 103 rules without registration? Barring that, he could register it under experimental/exhibition or research, but is that any better?
It can't fly unpowered, so it doesn't meet the FAR 103 unpowered rule. (I don't need to argue this, none flew at Oshkosh, they do fly in other countries).
If registered with an airworthiness certificate then the pilot needs a powered lift rating. (or some special permit)
 

bmcj

Well-Known Member
HBA Supporter
Joined
Apr 10, 2007
Messages
13,396
Location
Fresno, California
BB, so what you’re saying is that it must have a glide capability to meet 103 requirements? Would a BRS suffice?
 

bmcj

Well-Known Member
HBA Supporter
Joined
Apr 10, 2007
Messages
13,396
Location
Fresno, California
I prefer to ignore the unmanned capability at the moment so that we can focus on a clearer understanding on whether this can fit within Part 103, or whether it should go Experimental.

I’m not even sure if he plans to get more than a few feet off the ground.

If he wants to fly it unmanned, he should build a second one for that purpose so that he only has to run the Part 107 gauntlet for that one without the complication of calling it a dual purpose machine.
 

BBerson

Light Plane Philosopher
HBA Supporter
Joined
Dec 16, 2007
Messages
13,274
Location
Port Townsend WA
BB, so what you’re saying is that it must have a glide capability to meet 103 requirements? Would a BRS suffice?
I don't know what would suffice (other than 110 sq. ft. of wing area).
Can you post a copy of the FAA letter?
 

Dana

Super Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Apr 3, 2007
Messages
9,259
Location
CT, USA
Well, a helicopter can autorotate, unlike a multicopter, maybe that's the difference as the FAA sees it.
 

Hot Wings

Grumpy Cynic
HBA Supporter
Log Member
Joined
Nov 14, 2009
Messages
7,085
Location
Rocky Mountains
I’m not even sure if he plans to get more than a few feet off the ground.
Drag a rope and call it a powered kite? :confused:

This seems just like the debate over how the Blackfly could be called a legal part103.
 

TFF

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 28, 2010
Messages
13,060
Location
Memphis, TN
I would be classifying how it is controlled. If all he is doing is flying with a controller in his lap and could get out and then fly as a drone. It’s just a man carrying drone. If a person has to stay at the controls or it will crash, then it’s something different. Once it goes over 55 lbs in dronedom you are really out of classification and requires wavers.
 

FritzW

Well-Known Member
Log Member
Joined
Jan 30, 2011
Messages
3,896
Location
Las Cruces, NM
It's been awhile since I read part 103 but I don't remember anything about a requirement to be able to glide.

There is a part in the advisory circular that sounds like a powered ultralight needs "a means of horizontal propulsion" but in the same sentence it says helicopters are eligible.

AC103clip.jpg
 

BBerson

Light Plane Philosopher
HBA Supporter
Joined
Dec 16, 2007
Messages
13,274
Location
Port Townsend WA
It's assumed these things could be classified as "powered lift" by the FAA".
Powered lift is the most complex category, so the FAA is possibly reluctant to approve powered lift under FAR 103.
They don't even allow helicopters under LSA.


FAR 1.1
"Powered-lift means a heavier-than-air aircraft capable of vertical takeoff, vertical landing, and low speed flight that depends principally on engine-driven lift devices or engine thrust for lift during these flight regimes and on nonrotating airfoil(s) for lift during horizontal flight"
 
Last edited:

FritzW

Well-Known Member
Log Member
Joined
Jan 30, 2011
Messages
3,896
Location
Las Cruces, NM
"Powered-lift means a heavier-than-air aircraft capable of vertical takeoff, vertical landing, and low speed flight that depends principally on engine-driven lift devices or engine thrust for lift during these flight regimes and on nonrotating airfoil(s) for lift during horizontal flight"
But this thing has rotating airfoils.
 

BBerson

Light Plane Philosopher
HBA Supporter
Joined
Dec 16, 2007
Messages
13,274
Location
Port Townsend WA
Yes, doesn't fit the powered lift definition exactly, but close. This is all new and was not anticipated by the FAA when the FAR's were created. EAA told me the FAA will only approve on a case by case basis until the new rules, regulations, advisory circulars etc. are created.
 

BBerson

Light Plane Philosopher
HBA Supporter
Joined
Dec 16, 2007
Messages
13,274
Location
Port Townsend WA
It's up to the operator to prove it meets all of FAR 103.1 when confronted by the FAA after a flight. (or face a fine)
 

FritzW

Well-Known Member
Log Member
Joined
Jan 30, 2011
Messages
3,896
Location
Las Cruces, NM
It's up to the operator to prove it meets all of FAR 103.1 when confronted by the FAA after a flight.
§ 103.1 Applicability.
This part prescribes rules governing the operation of ultralight vehicles in the United States. For the purposes of this part, an ultralight vehicle is a vehicle that:
(a) Is used or intended to be used for manned operation in the air by a single occupant; ...check
(b) Is used or intended to be used for recreation or sport purposes only; ...check
(c) Does not have any U.S. or foreign airworthiness certificate; and ...check
(d) If unpowered, weighs less than 155 pounds; or ...NA
(e) If powered:
(1) Weighs less than 254 pounds empty weight, excluding floats and safety devices which are intended for deployment in a potentially catastrophic situation; ...check
(2) Has a fuel capacity not exceeding 5 U.S. gallons; ...check
(3) Is not capable of more than 55 knots calibrated airspeed at full power in level flight; and ...check
(4) Has a power-off stall speed which does not exceed 24 knots calibrated airspeed. ...check

...(or face a fine)
It's all speculation without knowing what the letter said, but if the problem is that it's not registered there has to be a law/rule/regulation that would require it to be registered. It doesn't seem like it's a problem with complying with part 103.
 

BBerson

Light Plane Philosopher
HBA Supporter
Joined
Dec 16, 2007
Messages
13,274
Location
Port Townsend WA
It can't comply with FAR 103.1 (e) (4) because it has no means of flight while unpowered or any means of achieving a calibrated stall speed that does not exceed 24 knots.
So your next reply is it has no unpowered stall speed...

It's an absurdity on par with a legal FAR 103 rocket ship.
As I mentioned, I won't argue the matter. I have been to Air Venture twice (2018 and 2019) to see a manned evtol fly.
It didn't happen either year. Why not?
No one will answer.
 
Top