Court shoots down FAA rule that forced drone hobbyists to register

"We are carefully reviewing the US Court of Appeals decision as it relates to drone registrations", the FAA said in a prepared statement.

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

Acting as his own lawyer, drone hobbyist John Taylor sued, contending the FAA didn't have that power.

The law that the court said bars the FAA from enforcing their registration system is set to expire in September, but Congress could change the laws regulating non-commercial drones before then.

Despite its Big Brother-ish nature, the rule was ostensibly enacted to improve safety as more and more drones take to the air.

Attorneys for the government failed to sway Kavanaugh's panel that the FAA was merely applying a much older requirement for all aircraft to register before flying.

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

The agency estimates that around 2.3 million drones will be sold this year and another 13 million will be sold by 2020.

"Congress is of course always free to repeal or amend its 2012 prohibition on FAA rules regarding model aircraft", the judges said.

China-based DJI, now the world's biggest drone manufacturer, applauded the FAA's work to create the drone registration system. It required owners to mark aircraft with an identification number and imposed civil and criminal penalties on those who did not comply.

"This is one of the law enforcement community's top concerns, and we hope the recommendations we receive will pave the way for expanded drone operations over people and beyond visual line of sight, " Huerta said.

The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International is similarly disappointed in the ruling. The court declined to consider that argument, however, as the petitioner filed to file the claim within 60 days of the order's issuance. "I expect the legal issue that impedes this program will be addressed by cooperative work between the industry and policy makers".

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

  • Leroy Wright