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Hypothetically if an RC aerotow setup were to be built, how does the FAA see this? Does towing have anything to do with it? Is the RC plane seen completely separately from the hangglider? Or can it be seen as under part 103 while on tow, and as an RC aircraft after tow? Are there any regulations governing any of this in Class G airspace? Or could you go to class G to test something like this? How hard do you imagine it would be to get some sort of exception to the altitude rule for such an aircraft?

I know basically nothing about RC or building anything, I'm just curious how big of a problem the FAA would be if someone were to try. A fixed wing RC aircraft could have a number of benefits. It could be made to fly slow enough to be able to tow paragliders for example. Also the operating costs could be very low compared to a dragonfly allowing small hanggliding clubs to base closer to home, or in areas where suitable tow roads simply don't exist.

I believe it's been done before at some level with a powered launch cart. The drone requirements are very fluid and will likely get more restrictive when commercial delivery drones come into existence. Here is what I see off the top of my head:

To be ok with the FAA I believe the hg pilot would need full control while the device is attached to him and the assembly weight of "tug" and glider must be under 254 lb dry.

Here's the rub. A commercial drone pilot would be required to control the craft if towed over 400 ft, and the tug component would have to weight less than 55lb. I believe towing would have to be in unclassified airspace, not even class G is permitted just yet.

I believe as drone technology matures more latitude will likely be given. Towing by a drone that returns to land after separation could be a game changer for those on the flatlands and could open more flight opportunities to PG pilots.
I really don't see how a directly attached system could be safe, or operationally practical. I saw some attempts at this and it definitely looked pretty head choppy. The minimal system I would imagine would be simply a fixed wing rc aircraft directly controlled by a pilot on the ground, an fpv system looking out the front and another out the back could provide some additional awareness. Other than that it would operate just like we do with aerotowing now.

Once that was working well an autopilot could be added to help improve tow consistency. The autopilot systems available now for rc aircraft are really quite impressive and cheap too. Ultimately the ground operator may only need to specify where the plane is to fly and monitor for emergency release.

The faa does issue exemptions for rc rules, anyone have an idea how hard it would be to get a set of exemptions that would permit for an rc tug?
Anything that is over the weight limit of 55lbs must be enrolled in the AMA large model program. The only problem is that the large model program only allows a weight limit of 125 lbs and must be flown by line of sight. If you operate an RC aircraft over the 125 limit and it's not covered under AMA then it's illegal.


Docket FAA-2015-0150, Amdt. 101-9, 81 FR 42208, June 28, 2016, unless otherwise noted.
§ 101.41 Applicability.
This subpart prescribes rules governing the operation of a model aircraft (or an aircraft being developed as a model aircraft) that meets all of the following conditions as set forth in section 336 of Public Law 112-95:

(a) The aircraft is flown strictly for hobby or recreational use;

(b) The aircraft is operated in accordance with a community-based set of safety guidelines and within the programming of a nationwide community-based organization;

(c) The aircraft is limited to not more than 55 pounds unless otherwise certified through a design, construction, inspection, flight test, and operational safety program administered by a community-based organization;

(d) The aircraft is operated in a manner that does not interfere with and gives way to any manned aircraft; and

(e) When flown within 5 miles of an airport, the operator of the aircraft provides the airport operator and the airport air traffic control tower (when an air traffic facility is located at the airport) with prior notice of the operation.
§ 101.43 Endangering the safety of the National Airspace System.
No person may operate model aircraft so as to endanger the safety of the national airspace system.
Yeah I saw that previously. There's no way that would be a practical alternative to normal aerotowing. I strongly suspect people would loose their head or hands occasionally or various sorts of glider destruction due to whatever releasing mechanism is employed. It would be slower to stage, and likely decent size engines couldn't be used so tows would be slower. Very awkward all around I suspect.
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