This article in the NY Times talks about how the the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives want to finger print and place under tight regulatory controls the hobby ofHigh Powered Model Rockety.
The high power model rocketry community is very, very, unhappy over it.
I have been expecting this move since 1997. The BATF has been nervous about this hobby since the high power rocketeers started using CCD camera's to track the sun as a cheap form of guidance rather then gyros. This let the hobbyist recover their rockets after flight since they now had a predictable trajectory that made the FAA happy.
The BATF suddenly realized that if home built high powered rockets can track the sun by light/dark contrast, they can track airplanes. The thought of home brew Stinger missiles had the BATF wetting their pants after Waco.
They want to put the idea of high powered model rocketry into a regulatory box, then throw away the box.
I ran into this particular pending BATF debacle at the 1997 Space Access Society get together that had an FAA representative present for the safe flying requirements CATS prize. The CATS prize being $100,000 for the first high powered rocketeer able to reach 100 KM altitude without using surpluse military or NASA hardware.
Being a fellow federal bureaucrat, I quized him about his agency's reaction to the High Powered Rocket Community. He said that the FAA had no problems at all with them. They were middle class, law abiding and safety oriented white guys. The people that were upset were the BATF.
I said something intelligence like: "Huh?"
Yes, the FAA rep. said, and then he explained the BATF's CCD guidance system concerns to me.
I then went over to one of the High Power Rocket hobbiest and asked about their CCD guidance systems. The hobbiest waxed enthusiastic over them as they replaced gyroscopes which were expensive. Then I related the BATF's concerns and got to see the growing shock in his eyes as he realized he was in the BATF's sights.
Of course this is another case of bureaucratic "Too Late, Jack."
The level of commercially available technology accessable by the average Americans means they can build a "home brew Stinger" with off the shelf technology in their garage. And this is not just limited to Stingers. GPS guidance systems have been available to home built aircraft autopilots for 10 years. Any home built aircraft hobbiest in the USA can now build a functional cruise missile.
Both man portable anti-aircraft missiles and converted experimental airplane cruise missiles are a high five to six figure investment and require several thousand man hours of work at current technology. Small "assassin" unmanned air vehicles (UAV) can be made for less than ten grand with off the shelf RC aircraft components.
The Secret Service won't even be able to identify the threat until after their first protectee is attacked/killed by one.
The BATF, and the Feds in general, will have to accept that there is no defense from an innovative terrorist. The only defense is a good offense, both at home and over seas.