Appeals court strikes down FAA drone registration rule

Angelica Greene
May 20, 2017

A federal appeals court on Friday struck down a federal rule that required owners of recreational drones and other model aircraft to register the devices with the Federal Aviation Administration.

"AUVSI is disappointed with the decision today by the U.S. Court of Appeals to reject the FAA's rule for registering recreational unmanned aircraft systems".

"The Registration Rule is unlawful as applied to model aircraft".

"Statutory interpretation does not get much simpler", the appeals court said in siding with plaintiff John Taylor, a drone hobbyist from Washington, DC. Maximum penalties for failing to comply included three years in prison and a $250,000 fine. People who failed to comply with the regulations, meant to promote drone safety and help identify unsafe drone operators, risked fines and jail time.

Section 336 of that act says that the FAA "may not promulgate any rule or regulation regarding a model aircraft", essentially suggesting that whatever new rules it created couldn't affect radio-controlled hobby aircraft.

In short, the decision reads, despite the fact that FMRA bars any promulgation of new rules or regulations for model aircraft, the 2015 registration rule is, in the FAA's own words, a "rule or regulation regarding a model aircraft".

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"The FAA must have appropriate authority to maintain reasonable oversight of UAS operations, including management of a national UAS registry, which is the first step to identifying UAS operating in the national airspace", the Small UAV Coalition said in a statement.

'We are in the process of considering our options and response to the decision, ' it said.

Marc Scribner, a transportation policy expert at the Competitive Enterprise Institute who has previously spoken against the rule, congratulated Taylor. The three-judge panel agreed that safety is an important goal, but said it's up to Congress to change the law.

Brian Wynne, president and CEO of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, expressed disappointment with the court's ruling.

Taylor said he hopes future FAA actions will focus on promoting safety and cracking down on reckless behavior, without tightening down on the activities of law-abiding model airplane hobbyists. "It has no rational application to model aircraft".

The FAA issued its first batch of rules for small commercial drones past year, and further regulatory actions are expected to address such scenarios as flights over the uninvolved public and flights beyond an operator's line of sight.

Other reports by GizPress

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