A federal appeals court on Friday, May 19, 2017, struck down a federal rule that required owners of recreational drones and other model aircraft to register the devices with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). In 2015, the FAA unveiled the registration rule in response to growing concerns about the popularity of drones in the skies above. According to the FAA, more than 550,000 unmanned aircraft were registered within the first year it was required.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that federal law prohibits the FAA from issuing any rules or regulations covering “model aircraft.” The DC Circuit wrote, “In short, the 2012 FAA Modernization and Record Act provides that FAA ‘may not promulgate any rule or regulation regarding a model aircraft,’ yet the FAA’s 2015 Registration Rule is a ‘rule or regulation regarding a model aircraft.’ Statutory interpretation does not get much simpler. The Registration Rule is unlawful as applied to model aircraft.” The three-judge panel agreed that safety is an important goal, but said it’s up to Congress to change the law.
The ruling is a win for model aircraft enthusiasts who complained that the registration requirement was too burdensome. John A. Taylor, a model aircraft enthusiast and insurance lawyer, is responsible for bringing the case forward today that was decided upon.
The 2015 rule required that all recreational drones be registered at a cost of $5; the rule also required that registration was to be renewed every three years. It also required owners to mark aircraft with an identification number and imposed civil and criminal penalties on those who did not comply.
The FAA released a statement on the court decision. “We are carefully reviewing the U.S. 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.”