FAA Voids Model Aircraft Registration

In Drone Law Blog, Drone Law Top Level Categories, Recreational Drone Registration by Enrico Schaefer

Drone hobbyists rejoice, the FAA’s 2015 ruling requiring registration for model aircraft has been overturned thanks to insurance lawyer John A. Taylor.  Here’s why, and how, Taylor won his case, and what you should do if you registered with the FAA.

The Registration Rule:

The FAA created a registration database as a way to address safety concerns for drones in public airspace. It was simple enough: if your drone was under 55 pounds and used for recreation, you had to register with the FAA. Your personal information would be uploaded to the FAA database and a registration number was attached to your drone. Nearly 300,000 people registered during the free, 30 day ‘grace’ period. However, over 500,000 others had to pay the FAA a $5 fee to register-amounting to nearly $3 million.

Taylor v. Huerta:

The registration mandate was challenged from the beginning. Section 336 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 clearly prohibits the FAA from “promulgating any rule or regulation regarding model aircraft.” A registration rule, specifically one you have to pay for, directly contradicts Section 336. Furthermore, the creation of Part 48, a regulation regarding model aircraft, was illegal.  Switching interpretations of model aircraft not having to register, to then having to register, was a prohibited interpretive rule.

What To Do If You Registered:

The FAA is offering a refund to anyone who paid the $5 registration fee,  in addition to deleting their information in the registration database if they can certify that their drone is only being flown for recreational purposes. Commercial drones are still required to register.  You can access the proper paperwork for a refund here, which should be mailed to the FAA.  The FAA, however, is still encouraging voluntary registration as a safety measure.