Court Strikes Down FAA's Drone Registration Rule

Joanna Estrada
May 21, 2017

John Taylor, a hobbyist who lives near Washington, D.C., filed his challenge to the FAA's rule just days after it was published, arguing that the 2012 FAA Modernization and Reform Act explicitly prevented the agency from regulating model aircraft. The registration fee is $5.

"We are carefully reviewing the U.S. Court of Appeals decision as it relates to drone registrations". It seems that the appellate court agreed with this logic, and ruled that if model aircraft are exempt from registration regulations, small hobby drones should be as well.

John Taylor, a lawyer and drone hobbyist based in the DC area brought the lawsuit against the FAA.

The agency expanded the registry in March of 2016 to include commercial drone operators, who had previously been required to obtain special FAA authorization.

"I started thinking, it's not going to accomplish what they say they're going to accomplish - the safety benefits are not there", Taylor said in an interview in February, shortly before he argued his case.

The ruling demonstrated the schism in the drone world.

The ruling is a win for model aircraft enthusiasts who complained that the registration requirement was too burdensome. People who failed to comply with the regulations, meant to promote drone safety and help identify risky drone operators, risked fines and jail time. He has some commonly available off-the-shelf models as well as ones he's built himself, he said. It said Taylor missed the deadline for opposing the FAA airspace rule. "As drone flights over people become more and more commonplace, imagine the challenge of a local police officer at a parade trying to determine which drones are properly there to photograph the festivities - and which may be operated by individuals with more sinister purposes", he said. "The FAA definitely overstepped their boundaries with the registration, and the fact that they called it an emergency action didn't help them look good". That makes it possible for Congress to clarify the FAA's authority to pass laws that pertain to model aircraft, including drones.

"The FAA's innovative approach to drone registration was very reasonable, and registration provides for accountability and education to drone pilots", the company's policy head, Brendan Schulman, tells Recode.

Circuit Judge Kavanaugh wrote in the decision [PDF] that the court found the FAA's registration rule directly violated that "clear statutory prohibition" established in the FMRA.

DMA is studying the implications of today's registration-related court ruling, but believes the existing system has worked well to protect the interests of safe and responsible pilots as well as the interests of society at large.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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