Six months after a federal court decided to end mandatory registration for hobbyist unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), it appears the requirement could soon be returning.
Bloomberg reports that an amendment restoring registration to its original form, mandatory for both recreational and commercial drone operators, has made its way into the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018, which is expected to pass in both the House and Senate. Specifically, a one-paragraph amendment states that registration “shall be restored” when the act becomes law, the report says.
In a landmark decision in May, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) violated the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 when it placed registration requirements on hobbyist UAS operators. John A. Taylor, a model aircraft hobbyist from Washington, D.C., challenged the FAA’s registration rule, which went into effect in December 2015. Under the rule, both hobbyist and commercial UAS operators needed to register drones weighing more than 0.55 pounds and less than 55 pounds. However, Section 336 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 – the Special Rule for Model Aircraft – stated that the FAA cannot “promulgate any rule or regulation regarding a model aircraft”; therefore, the court ruled that the registration rule was “unlawful as applied to model aircraft.”
In response to the court decision, Rich Hanson, president of the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA), said that the group was “encouraged to see the court affirm the strength of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft” and that “federal registration … shouldn’t burden those who have operated harmoniously within our communities for decades and who already comply with AMA’s registration system.”
Now, in a statement issued on on the latest news, AMA says, “While we have always said registration makes sense at some level, we have pushed for a more reasonable threshold and argued that if registration is to be implemented, the criteria, threshold and implementation should go through rulemaking.
“We continue to work closely with Congress, the FAA and other stakeholders to determine the best path forward now that UAS registration will be reinstituted. This process will take time but, as always, we are doing everything we can to advocate for our members and protect the model aircraft hobby.”
The group adds that it encourages its members to “please comply with the registration rule once it is in effect again.”
In a statement from the Small UAV Coalition, the group says it “applauds Congress for restoring FAA authority to maintain a national UAS registry.”
Maintaining that “providing a mechanism to identify all UAS operating in the national airspace is critical to ensuring safe integration and unleashing the potential for increased and expanded commercial UAS operations,” the coalition “thanks Congress for recognizing the need to restore accountability as a means of facilitating the safe, widespread and expeditious integration of UAS into the national airspace.”