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Transportation United States

Americans No Longer Have To Register Non-Commercial Drones With the FAA (recode.net) 113

A federal appeals court on Friday struck down a federal rule that required owners of recreational drones and other model aircraft to register the devices with the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA had announced the rule in 2015 in response to growing reports of drones flying near manned aircraft and airports. Drones have become increasingly popular with hobbyists and more than 550,000 unmanned aircraft were registered within the first year it was required. From a report: The court ruled that the FAA's drone registration rules, which have been in place since 2015, were in violation of a law passed by Congress in 2012. That law, the FAA Modernization and Reform Act, prohibited the FAA from passing any rules on the operation of model aircraft -- in other words, rules that restrict how non-commercial hobbyist drone operators fly. Now, if a person buys a new drone to fly for fun, they no longer have to register that aircraft with the FAA. But if flying for commercial purposes, drone buyers still need to register. The lawsuit was won by John Taylor, a model aircraft enthusiast, who brought the case against the FAA in January 2016. Since first opening the FAA's registration system in December 2015, more than 820,000 people have registered to fly drones.
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Americans No Longer Have To Register Non-Commercial Drones With the FAA

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  • Unsurprising (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SlaveToTheGrind ( 546262 ) on Friday May 19, 2017 @03:28PM (#54450587)

    The 2012 law explicitly prohibited the FAA from doing exactly what it did. The court's opinion [uscourts.gov] is only 10 pages and gets directly to the point:

    In short, the 2012 FAA Modernization and Reform Act provides that the FAA “may not promulgate any rule or regulation regarding a model aircraft,” yet the FAA’s 2015 Registration Rule is a “rule or regulation regarding a model aircraft.” Statutory interpretation does not get much simpler. The Registration Rule is unlawful as applied to model aircraft.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Then why is registration still in place for "commercial use"? If we are going to regulate drones, it should be done based on weight, altitude, payload (cameras, machine guns, etc.) and location (near airports or flight paths). It should not be based on whether the operator is earning some money to feed his family.

      • by thebes ( 663586 )

        Surely there can be some middle ground:

        https://www.youtube.com/result... [youtube.com]

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Repentinus ( 3490629 )

        Then why is registration still in place for "commercial use"?

        Because Section 336(a)(1) of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act specifically restricts the FAA's ability to regulate model aircraft if "the aircraft is flown strictly for hobby or recreational use".

        Commercial pilots of traditional aircraft have stricter qualification requirements because they are likely to fly heavier aircraft, they are likely to fly more often, and they are likely to operate in busier airspaces. As a consequence, commercial fli

        • Commercial pilots of traditional aircraft have stricter qualification requirements because they are likely to fly heavier aircraft, they are likely to fly more often, and they are likely to operate in busier airspaces.

          That is stupid reasoning. If heaviness, frequency, and location are problems, then they should be regulated directly, rather than regulating commerce just because it is correlated with these things. Many commercial operators use tiny drones. Many hobbyists use big drones. The regulation should be based on the size not the motivation of the user.

          • by DRJlaw ( 946416 )

            That is stupid reasoning. If heaviness, frequency, and location are problems, then they should be regulated directly, rather than regulating commerce just because it is correlated with these things. Many commercial operators use tiny drones. Many hobbyists use big drones. The regulation should be based on the size not the motivation of the user.

            "Because Section 336(a)(1) of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act specifically restricts the FAA's ability to regulate model aircraft if "the aircraft is flown stri

        • by grumling ( 94709 )

          No, because the AMA's lobbyist did a great job getting that language put into the act. The AMA doesn't care about commercial users, just their membership.

      • If we are going to regulate drones, it should be done based on weight, altitude, payload (cameras, machine guns, etc.) and location (near airports or flight paths).

        We do.

        Sec 336(a)(3):

        the aircraft is limited to not more than 55 pounds unless otherwise certified through a design, construction, inspection, flight test, and operational safety program administered by a community-based organization;

        Sec 336(a)(5):

        when flown within 5 miles of an airport, the operator of the aircraft provides the airport opera

      • Commercial use is where all the money is, and that's where Congresspeople can get donations to stop getting in the way of things.

        This is the way most of the world operates. It is just lessened and pushed even more underground in the US and Europe.

        BTW, they want tax simplification, as was done in the 1980s, to get rid of most loopholes so they can hand them back out again in upcoming years.

        Learn from history.

      • Then why is registration still in place for "commercial use"?

        Because "model aircraft" is already well defined in those other laws, and it only covers hobbyist use. "Model" being an important word there. When used commercially it is no longer a mere "model" of an aircraft, but rather is a fully functional flying tool.

        It makes perfect sense using plain English. But only if you assume that words have specific, known meanings.

    • by tsqr ( 808554 )

      The 2012 law explicitly prohibited the FAA from doing exactly what it did.

      That's right. And that 2012 law expires 4 months from now. What will happen next? From TFA: “The goal of the registration rule was to assist law enforcement and others to enforce the law against unauthorized drone flights, and to educate hobbyists that a drone is not just a toy and operators need to follow the rules,” said Lisa Ellman, an attorney and specialist on the drone regulation with the law firm Hogan Lovells. “These are worthy goals, so if this ruling stands it wouldn't surprise u

    • The 2012 law explicitly prohibited the FAA from doing exactly what it did. The court's opinion [uscourts.gov] is only 10 pages and gets directly to the point:

      In short, the 2012 FAA Modernization and Reform Act provides that the FAA “may not promulgate any rule or regulation regarding a model aircraft,” yet the FAA’s 2015 Registration Rule is a “rule or regulation regarding a model aircraft.” Statutory interpretation does not get much simpler. The Registration Rule is unlawful as applied to model aircraft.

      Actually, it's not so clear and may very well be overturned on appeal. The problem is this. (Excerpt from ruling which quotes the Act which supposedly makes the FAA's regulation illegal.):

      The Act defines “model aircraft” as “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."

      The problem is part (2): "flown within visual line of sight of the person operating the aircraft." Drones do not need to be in the operators visual line of sight because they typically have an on board camera which the operator can use to navigate even when the drone is out of the visual line of sight. That's what dis

      • That's neither tricky nor grounds to overturn the law. A model airplane ceases to be one when its operator flies it out of his or her line of sight (subject to reasonable exceptions for momentary, accidental, breaks in the line of sight). Any model aircraft could be flown out of the operator's sight -- that doesn't mean the FAA suddenly gets to regulate them all.

      • I think this is an obvious error on the part of the Court of Appeal and I expect the ruling will be overturned.

        Putting aside the question of whether the U.S. Supreme Court would find an issue like this interesting enough to burn one of its 60ish annual grants of certiorari, there's actually no error on which to base a cert petition in the issue you're raising. From the opinion (worth a read -- it's short):

        Lest there be any doubt about whether the Registration Rule is a rule “regarding a model aircraft” for purposes of Section 336, the Registration Rule states that its “definition of ‘model aircraft’ is identical to the definition provided in section 336(c) of Public Law 112–95,” the FAA Modernization and Reform Act.

        So there are no nits to pick here -- that which the FAA required to be registered is that which falls under the Section 336 definition, and the Court of Appeals held that registration requirement unlawful. Game o

  • Now I can operate my Telemaster (big, cheap RC plane) anywhere and any way I want, and nobody can tell me that I can't because they can't make any rules about model aircraft operations. It was in the news, it must be true.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by operagost ( 62405 )
      No, you can't operate it any way you want, any more than you can swing a baseball bat any way you want, throw rocks any way you want, or set fires anywhere you want. We don't need to have a license to have a rock, a baseball bat, or fire starters (at least, not today), but we have plenty of laws in place to dissuade people from harming people or destroying property. Asking legislators to compensate for the failings of law enforcement or actions of jackholes is harmful to the liberty of the peaceful citize
  • I've watched plenty of videos from hobbyist drones that went straight up at high attitudes. I wonder if such attitudes are possible in Silicon Valley, as the whole area is a flight path for multiple airports in the region. I'm thinking about getting a camera drone.
    • I'm wondering if we're gonna have to have a major airline accident over a population center from some kid's $500 drone before somebody takes action. Or am I just completely off base here? I don't know enough about aviation to say for sure and the articles I've read don't really touch on the issue. Most of the news outlets seem to have sided with the hobbyists over the FAA here.
      • $500 drones generally don't weigh enough to cause a major airline accident, not on the first few tries at least.

        What you are gonna have is a rash of "near miss" reports and potentially a few drone strikes, maybe even an expensive engine intake of one - but the engine intake scenario is probably 1:100 for the near miss reports. The population center is at even less risk of the engine intake causing a failure to land at an airport situation, but when it eventually does happen it will likely be over a major p

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Unlikely, most drones that are operated recklessly are the cheap toy ones. They would damage the engine for sure if sucked in, but so would a big bird.

      • by creimer ( 824291 )

        I'm wondering if we're gonna have to have a major airline accident over a population center from some kid's $500 drone before somebody takes action.

        The hobbyists with money are going to be the ones to worry about. If the drone used to pull Casey Neistat on skies flew around an airport, it might cause problems.

        http://dronelife.com/2016/12/20/custom-drone-ski-lift-neistat/ [dronelife.com]

      • A major airliner in the worst case sucks in a drone, loses an engine, and lands safely at the nearest airport.

        The real airplane danger would be a military fighter jet hitting one and taking some damage, and the pilot ejecting leaving the plane to crash in a neighborhood.

        Unlikely, but possible.

        But the big threat to the public isn't airplanes, it is helicopters. They crash easy, and they suck things in easy.

        That isn't why the government wants to regulate. The government wants to regulate because private drone

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I want my 5 dollars!

    • I don't think you can sue for less than the filing fee, and since you won't have to pay it again you can't claim you'll be harmed by enough to meet the threshold.

      A class action could sweep in people who were harmed at the $5 level, but you still need an original plaintiff who was harmed enough to have standing.

      The easiest route to a refund would be to stand in front of the FAA for a few months with a sign. If you have a few hundred other people with you, maybe you'll get noticed!

  • I want my money back that the FAA required me to spend for illegal registration - WITH INTEREST! Time to start a class action lawsuit.
  • Another win for Trump!

  • posting monetized flight videos on youtube is /still/ commercial use.

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