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Changes in Drone Registration Requirements

Do you fly a drone, or a model aircraft? If your answer is “yes” (both), you no longer have to register it in order to fly.

Last month, the D.C. Circuit (District of Columbia, not Marvel’s rival!) Court of Appeals struck down the FAA’s rule, which required the registration of all drones. The judicial repeal of that rule means that the FAA cannot require “model aircraft” owner-operators to register their aircraft.

The D.C. Circuit Court found that the FAA’s regulation violated the 2012 FAA Modernization and Reform Act, which prohibited the the FAA from issuing “. . . any rule or regulation regarding model aircraft.” The Court ruled that “drones” are within the definition of “model aircraft.” Notably, the decision does not apply to “commercial” drones, those people who are charging others for their services. Commercial drones/operators must still register, pass a test, etc. But it does free the average hobbyist from the registration requirement, the placement of an identifying badge or number on the “aircraft” itself, and the payment of a $5 registration fee.

UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) hobbyists’ registration reprieve could be short-lived. The FAA Modernization Act sunsets on September 30, 2017. Before that time, if a new bill passes, reauthorizing the Federal Aircraft Administration (FAA), it might well include provisions requiring registration, rather than forbidding it.

So, amateur model aircraft pilots and drone hobbyists, unite, and . . . take flight!

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