Appeals court strikes down FAA drone registration rule

Isaac Cain
May 20, 2017

The registration rule is therefore unlawful, the court concluded.

Drone registration was prompted by reports of the unmanned craft flying near traditional aircraft, including airliners at some of the largest USA airports. People who failed to comply with the regulations, meant to promote drone safety and help identify unsafe drone operators, risked fines and jail time.

He argued that the FAA did not have jurisdiction over the flights of model aircraft - a line the three judges of appeals court accepted, ordering the rule to be overturned.

The FAA announced in December 2015 that it would require every person who wished to fly a drone in USA airspace pay $5 and provide their full name, address and email.

The Federal Aviation Administration had adopted the rule in 2015, no small, unmanned drones could take to the sky before their owners paid a $5 registration fee with disclosure of their names and any mailing and email addresses.

"The FAA put registration and operation regulations in place to ensure that drones are operated in a way that is safe and does not pose security and privacy threats", the FAA said in a statement.

In December 2015, the FAA issued an interim rule requiring drone hobbyists to register their recreational aircraft with the agency. Failing to do so could land an operator in prison for up to three years with a maximum criminal penalty of $250,000.

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Regulators stayed mum Friday about whether they will appeal.

"Taylor is right", the decision reads. "We are in the process of considering our options and response to the decision".

Jonathan Rupprecht, a lawyer working with Taylor, considers the ruling a victory for the semantics of what a hobby drone is.

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

"We plan to work with Congress on a legislative solution that will ensure continued accountability across the entire aviation community, both manned and unmanned", said AUVSI president and CEO Brian Wynne in a statement.

Lawyers for the FAA argued that the registration rule is not a new requirement, but merely a "decision to cease its exercise of enforcement discretion", which falls within its mission to improve aviation safety.

"The FAA contends it's illegal for me to fly model aircraft within 30 miles of Washington National Airport", Taylor complained. In the eyes of the court, it seems these are really just model aircraft.

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