Court strikes down FAA's drone registration rule


A May 19 federal appeals court ruling found that the FAA's registration requirement runs afoul of 2012 legislation.

The U.S. appeals court in Washington, D.C., ruled on May 19 that the Federal Aviation Administration's registration requirement for recreational drone owners conflicts with federal law.

The registration rule was announced in 2015 as part of the FAA's efforts to manage the increasingly crowded national airspace. The online registration system launched in December 2015, and more than a half-million unmanned aerial vehicles were registered in the first year.

A hobbyist in the Washington, D.C., area filed the suit, charging that requiring registration for small noncommercial unmanned aircraft violates the 2012 FAA Modernization and Reform Act, which states the FAA "may not promulgate any rule or regulation regarding a model aircraft."

The court agreed, finding that "The FAA's 2015 Registration Rule, which applies to model aircraft, directly violates that clear statutory prohibition."

"Congress is of course always free to repeal or amend its 2012 prohibition on FAA rules regarding model aircraft," the court's ruling states. "Perhaps Congress should do so. Perhaps not. In any event, we must follow the statute as written."

The FAA offered no immediate indication as to how the ruling would be handled.

"We are carefully reviewing the U.S. Court of Appeals decision as it relates to drone registrations," an agency spokesperson told FCW. "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 lawsuit also challenged the FAA's ban on flying recreational drones in the

Washington, D.C., Flight Restricted Zone. The court declined to consider that argument, however, as the petitioner filed to file the claim within 60 days of the order's issuance.

About the Author

Troy K. Schneider is the Editor-in-Chief of both FCW and GCN, two of the oldest and most influential publications in public-sector IT. Both publications (originally known as Federal Computer Week and Government Computer News, respectively) are owned by GovExec. Mr. Schneider also serves GovExec's General Manager for Government Technology Brands.

Mr. Schneider previously served as New America Foundation’s Director of Media & Technology, and before that was Managing Director for Electronic Publishing at the Atlantic Media Company, where he oversaw the online operations of The Atlantic Monthly, National Journal, The Hotline and The Almanac of American Politics, among other publications. The founding editor of NationalJournal.com, Mr. Schneider also helped launch the political site PoliticsNow.com in the mid-1990s, and worked on the earliest online efforts of the Los Angeles Times and Newsday. He began his career in print journalism, and has written for a wide range of publications, including The New York Times, WashingtonPost.com, Slate, Politico, Governing, and many of the other titles listed above.

Mr. Schneider is a graduate of Indiana University, where his emphases were journalism, business and religious studies.


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