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Model Aircraft Registration Lawsuit: Taylor v. Huerta

Posted on May 19 2017

It's the match of the century, certain to be a long and arduous battle... Okay, nevermind it looks like the FAA got trounced halfway through the fight.

John Taylor

This all started when the FAA decided to charge $5 for registration of sUAS (aka model aircraft) for hobbyist use. But according to the FAA Modernization and Reform Act, Section 336 (a):

SEC. 336. SPECIAL RULE FOR MODEL AIRCRAFT. (a)

IN GENERAL.—Notwithstanding any other provision of law relating to the incorporation of unmanned aircraft systems into Federal Aviation Administration plans and policies, including this subtitle, the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration may not promulgate any rule or regulation regarding a model aircraft, or an aircraft being developed as a model aircraft, if— (1) the aircraft is flown strictly for hobby or recreational use; (2) the aircraft is operated in accordance with a community-based set of safety guidelines and within the programming of a nationwide community-based organization; (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; (4) the aircraft is operated in a manner that does not interfere with and gives way to any manned aircraft; and (5) when flown within 5 miles of an airport, the operator of the aircraft provides the airport operator and the airport air traffic control tower (when an air traffic facility is located at the airport) with prior notice of the operation (model aircraft operators flying from a permanent location within 5 miles of an airport should establish a mutually-agreed upon operating procedure with the airport operator and the airport air traffic control tower (when an air traffic facility is located at the airport)).

John Taylor decided to take a stand against Huerta's "Emergency Measure" to implement a registration program prior to an expected spike in drone sales during holiday season 2015. It looks like the DC Court of Appeals agreed with Taylor.

There is speculation that the FAA may be issuing refunds for people that paid the $5 fee, but that seems like a fairly unrealistic expectation. At the very least, it's the FAA, by the time they actually issue a refund you'll have forgotten that you paid five dollars to begin with.

 

"To begin, Taylor does not think that the FAA had the statutory authority to issue the Registration Rule and require him to register. Taylor is right. In 2012, Congress passed and President Obama signed the FAA Modernization and Reform Act. Section 336(a) of that Act states that the FAA “may not promulgate any rule or regulation regarding a model aircraft.” Pub. L. No. 112–95, § 336(a), 126 Stat. 11, 77 (2012) (codified at 49 U.S.C. § 40101 note). The FAA’s 2015 Registration Rule, which applies to model aircraft, directly violates that clear statutory prohibition. We therefore grant Taylor’s petition and vacate the Registration Rule to the extent it applies to model aircraft."

To read the full verdict, click here.

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