Appellate Court Lets Your Drone Go…Unregistered


The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has struck down a regulation requiring ordinary citizens to register drone aircraft.

The May 19 decision stated that the Federal Aviation Administration did not have the authority to regulate “model aircraft.”

Prior to the ruling, the FAA told the appeals court, “it would threaten the safety of the national airspace system” if they were to do away with the registration requirement. The reasoning for its nullification was in reference to the 2012 FAA Modernization and Reform Act, passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama. The law had a rule which stated that the FAA “may not promulgate any rule or regulation regarding a model aircraft.”

All citizens who wish to legally fly a drone are required to pay a $5 fee and register the drone with their name, email address, and home address. They also have to place a registration sticker on the drone with a unique identifying number. This regulation has been in place since 2015.

Failure to comply with the registration would result in up to a $250,000 fine as well as up to three years in prison. The registration must be redone every three years in order to remain compliant. Commercial drones were already under a different set of rules. Currently there are about 550,000 registered drones in the USA.

In response to the outcome of the case with the appellate court, the FAA had stated that they “are carefully reviewing the US Court of Appeals decision as it relates to drone registrations. The FAA put registration and operational regulations in place to ensure that drones are operated in a way that is safe and does not pose security and privacy threats. We are in the process of considering our options and response to the decision.”

The reaction to the decision regarding the FAA drone regulation made by the US court of appeals was met with mixed reactions. Those against it said the registration was worthwhile to provide some accountability for individuals who could be reckless and endangering others, whereas the hobbyists, including John Taylor who filed the suit, stated the registration requirement was “a burden on hobbyists that Congress did not want to create.”

He also stated in an interview with Market Watch that “as of today, no American has been seriously injured by hobby drones, they may get cuts or bruises, but look at ATVs and watercraft, where dozens are killed every year. It’s all a reaction to new technology. People are afraid of drones because they’re something new. I just don’t see that the risk justifies the action that has been taken over the last 100 years around model aircraft.”

The reality of all this fear mongering by government officials is that this is the natural response to all new technology as detailed in a Wired Magazine article titled Why the US Government Is Terrified of Hobbyist Drones as well as Tech Republic’s 12 drone disasters that show why the FAA hates dronesLove them or hate them, they will be here to stay.

It should be noted, however, that the ruling is not yet enforced as the court gave the FAA seven days to consider their current legal options.


Photo: Sukie Kim

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