D.C. Group Files Lawsuit To Overturn FAA UAS Registration

Posted by Betsy Lillian on February 18, 2016 No Comments

In a new lawsuit filed against the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Washington, D.C.-based TechFreedom wants to overturn the agency’s recently imposed requirement for unmanned aircraft system (UAS) operators to register their devices.

In the petition for review, TechFreedom describes itself as a “non-profit, non-partisan 501(c)(3) tax-exempt think tank dedicated to educating policymakers, the media and the public about Internet policy.”

Similar to what the Academy of Model Aeronautics has advocated for, the think tank calls the registration rule “contrary to law” of Section 336 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, which “prohibits the agency from ‘promulgat[ing] any rule or regulation regarding a model aircraft … notwithstanding any other provision of law relating to the incorporation of unmanned aircraft systems into Federal Aviation Administration plans and policies,’” says the lawsuit.

“Whether or not requiring drone registration is a wise policy, the rules the FAA rushed out before Christmas are unlawful,” comments Berin Szoka, president of TechFreedom, in a media statement.

The FAA and U.S. Department of Transportation first revealed the drone registration initiative at an October press conference. The agencies then assigned a task force to come up with recommendations for how the registration process should be handled. Having incorporated some of the group’s proposals, the FAA came out with the rules for hobbyist drone pilots in mid-December – in time for what the agency expected to be a mass rush of new drone owners during the holidays. This Friday marks the deadline for current owners to register.

Szoka continues, “[The registration rules] exceed the authority Congress has given the FAA. Moreover, the agency illegally bypassed the most basic transparency requirement in administrative law: that it provide an opportunity for the affected public to comment on its regulations. That means the FAA could not fully consider the real-world complexities of regulating drones. Thus, the FAA’s rules could lead to a host of unintended consequences.”

Tom Struble, policy counsel at TechFreedom, explains that a public comment period ensures that “regulation doesn’t do more harm than good.”

“It ensures that the agency is exposed to viewpoints from all the relevant stakeholders, and it forces the agency to weigh competing considerations before issuing a rule. The holiday rush did not justify the FAA bypassing standard notice-and-comment rulemaking, and the paltry cost-benefit analysis contained in the [instrument flight rules] does not pass muster. The D.C. Circuit should set aside these interim rules and force the FAA to go back to the drawing board.”

A report from Forbes notes that this is not the first anti-registration lawsuit filed against the FAA; a model aircraft pilot filed one back on Dec. 24.

TechFreedom’s full petition for review can be found here.

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