The Federal Aviation Administration took the first initial steps today toward severely restricting or banning all hobby and commercial drone flights in the country, putting in a request to formally cancel the document under which model aircraft have legally operated since 1981.

The document it wants to kill is called Advisory Circular 91-57, and it’s a really important one for those who fly drones: issued in 1981, the document sets the voluntary guidelines under which drones can be flown (you can read much more about that in our earlier explanation here).

The fact that the guidelines contained within it—do not fly higher than 400 feet, do not operate near an airport, etc.—are just that, guidelines, was seen as an implicit suggestion that there are no legally enforceable regulations under which to fine or arrest drone pilots.

To be clear: Flying model aircraft before 1981 was technically legal as well, but this document expressly notes that the FAA has no regulations on them and that following the rules outlined in the document is strictly voluntary.

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