Drones

US drone registry axed

The FAA's mandatory drone registry is no more
The FAA's mandatory drone registry is no more
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The FAA's mandatory drone registry is no more
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The FAA's mandatory drone registry is no more

Seen as an unnecessary burden by some and a smart safety measure by others, the US government's mandatory drone registry certainly had the desired effect. Hundreds of thousands of hobbyists have now registered their devices with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). As it turns out, however, the whole thing wasn't well, entirely legal, with an appeals court today striking down the rule and leaving the registry seemingly dead in the water.

Introduced in 2015, the mandatory drone registry required owners of unmanned aircraft weighing between 0.55 and 55 lb (250 g and 25 kg) to register their machines with the FAA. If not, they faced fines of up to $250,000.

This drew the ire of some in the drone industry, and the many hobbyists who had been flying small aircraft recreationally for years. One such hobbyist, John Taylor, went to the lengths of challenging the FAA's new rule in the US Court of Appeals. Today, that court ruled in his favor.

"Taylor is right," the decision reads. "In 2012, Congress passed and President Obama signed the FAA Modernization and Reform Act. Section 336(a) of that Act states that the FAA 'may not promulgate any rule or regulation regarding a model aircraft' ... The FAA's 2015 Registration Rule, which applies to model aircraft, directly violates that clear statutory prohibition. We therefore grant Taylor's petition and vacate the Registration Rule to the extent it applies to model aircraft."

The decision doesn't change the rules around flying drones for commercial reasons which were implemented last August and still require mandatory registration. The FAA released a statement this afternoon addressing the decision.

"We are carefully reviewing the US Court of Appeals decision as it relates to drone registrations," it reads. "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."

Source: US Court of Appeals

5 comments
Milton
Seemed like a strange rule that costs more to implement and regulate than it protects. Glad it's gone for now.
slarmas
Government overreach that is ineffectual and glad to see it gone. Now let's see if we can get some momentum and start getting rid of more regulations and unconstitutional laws.
ErstO
There is a small hitch that may allow the FAA to continue to require “Drone” registrations. From H. R. 658—67: (c) MODEL AIRCRAFT DEFINED.—In this section, the term ‘‘model aircraft’’ means an unmanned aircraft that is— (1) capable of sustained flight in the atmosphere; (2) flown within visual line of sight of the person operating the aircraft; and (3) flown for hobby or recreational purposes. Note Number 2, The problem is quad copters today are capable of flying way beyond “visual line of sight”. My Mavic has a 4 mile range while my older RC aircraft that lacks cameras or GPS can only be flown “line of sight” The FAA can come back and say small un-maned aircraft that has cameras and GPS tracking do not follow the definition of Model Aircraft, thus, requires an FAA license. I have been in this hobby for decades, and I complained when registration became mandatory, then I bought my first quad and discovered how easy it is to fly, and started seeing the videos of those that do not follow long established rules in operating RC aircraft. Flying over populated areas, flying above 400 feet, flying near Airports I’m not saying these quads are dangerous, they are far safer then traditional RC aircraft, but this hobby has expanded over a bunch of flyers taking over a field or a park for a day doing tricks or showing off their latest build. Might not be a bad idea to keep registration, for no other reason than letting newbies know whats safe and what is not safe.
Anne Ominous
There's another problem with this regulation that everyone is ignoring. The FAA's regulatory authority comes directly from the Interstate Commerce Clause of the Constitution. The law that created it was the Air Commerce Act of 1926. As such, the FAA does not have lawful authority to regulate "all" airspace. Its jurisdiction is limited to "navigable" interstate airways. In exactly the same way that EPA's authority over waterways only extends to navigable interstate waterways... a fatal flaw that will surely kill the Waters of the US (WOTUS) regulation. Historically, and legally, all other water belongs to the States. And historically, and legally, all other airspace does too. In fact legally, the airspace over a parcel of land (except where it intersects navigable airways) belongs to the land owner, in the same way that the mineral rights under that land belong to the landowner.
John Sorensen
"Anne"... The problem with your argument is in the definition. While Navigable Waters is clearly defined as "Waters that provide a channel for commerce and transportation of people and goods" and has generally been accepted as water that runs deep enough to allow for commercial shipping, and provides connections to other bodies of water, there IS NO equivalent definition for Navigable Airspace. Pretty much ANY space above the Earth where an airplane can safely fly COULD be used as a channel for commerce and transportation of people and goods. Therefore it COULD be argued that ALL airspace over the United States is subject to regulation by the FAA. The FAA has arbitrarily designated an altitude of 400 feet above the ground as the upper limits for drone operation, which seems reasonable, since the usual lower limits for standard aircraft is 500 feet above the ground. Separating airspace allocated to drones and airplanes by at least 100 feet is probably a good thing.