Here's why joining AMA is going to be beneficial (at least right now):
The AMA is currently the only recognized Community Based Organization (CBO) by the FAA.
Flite Test is not, at least not yet. Will they be a CBO? Likely, yes, but their application is still under review and will likely need to meet the following requirements, as listed on the FAA webpage:
Community Based Organizations (CBOs) that meet the statutory definition in Section 44809(h) of the Exception for Limited Recreational Operations of Unmanned Aircraft
, may apply for FAA recognition:
- Described in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986;
- Exempt from tax under section 501(a) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986;
- Mission of which is demonstrably the furtherance of model aviation;
- Provide a comprehensive set of safety guidelines for all aspects of model aviation;
- Provide programming and support for any local charter organizations, affiliates, or clubs; and
- Provide assistance and support in the development and operation of locally designated model aircraft flying sites
Now, does the above mean that FTCA won't get CBO status? No. I think they likely will, but it's probably not going to be until after the first of the year at the earliest, and likely not until first quarter of 2023 with how government bodies are going to go on vacation between now and the first of the year.
Why does that CBO status mean anything? Because CBOs are the only ones that can apply for FRIA status (FAA Recognized Identification Areas) for a flying site. You want to fly aircraft, you will need to be either flying with a Remote ID device (which the only ones that are currently planned are in the $200 price range), or you'll need to be flying at a FRIA, which will need to be established by a CBO. Seeing that the AMA is the only CBO recognized by the FAA at this time, they're getting the jump on submitting for FRIAs for AMA established fields like the field at Muncie, or my current club's location here in San Diego (we're actually part of the trial submission for a small group of clubs for FRIAs). Anyone who wants to fly at a FRIA established by the AMA, I can almost guarantee is going to need to be an AMA member.
So...do you need to join the AMA? No. But if you want to participate in AMA events, or fly at AMA fields, yes, and I can almost guarantee you'll need it to fly at AMA established FRIAs because they'll likely be AMA fields.
And if you're just going to be illegal and not pay attention to the laws, that's on you - this isn't going to apply to you anyway.