Court Strikes Down FAA's Drone Registration Rule
Ostensibly enacted to improve safety, the requirement that recreational drone pilots register their craft with the FAA is nevertheless unlawful, a court ruled.
Your new drone has one fewer hoop to jump through on its way from its box to its first flight, thanks to a court decision on Friday that invalidates the requirement for non-commercial drone pilots to register their craft with the Federal Aviation Administration.
A district court in Washington, D.C., found that the FAA's registry is unlawful, citing a federal statute that prohibits the agency from making any rules or regulations that apply to model aircraft. That statute, the FAA Modernization and Reform Act, was enacted in 2012, three years before the FAA implemented its mandatory drone registration program.
Under the program, drone owners must pay a $5 fee and affix a unique FAA identification code to their craft. Friday's court decision vacates that rule, but only to the extent that it regulates recreational drones. The decision does not apply to commercial craft, which must meet a more stringent set of registration rules. Nor does it apply to the FAA's other drone rules, including both temporary and permanent flight restrictions around military bases and other sensitive areas.
Despite its Big Brother-ish nature, the rule was ostensibly enacted to improve safety as more and more drones take to the air. In his decision, Judge Brett Kavanaugh noted that although the rule is unlawful, "aviation safety is obviously an important goal, and the Registration Rule may well help further that goal to some degree."
The FAA said on Friday that it is reviewing the court decision, but did not immediately announce whether it would appeal.
"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 agency said in a statement. "We are in the process of considering our options and response to the decision."