Just seven months after the Federal Court overturned the FAA’s (Federal Aviation Administration) rule for registering drones, the requirement will make a comeback today, courtesy of a new legislation by the US Government. A small part of the National Defense Authorization Act, the registration requirement will be applicable to all drones weighing above 0.55 pounds.
With the FAA expecting more than 2 million consumer drone sales this year, the regulations look timely to ensure that safety and security of citizens are not compromised.
Given the rising popularity of drones, the FAA in 2015 decided to put in place regulations mandating the registration of drones (weighing greater than 0.55 pounds), whether used for commercial or as a personal hobby. The FAA had hoped this would help promote safe flying and ensure accountability.
On the registration requirements, FAA’s leader, Michael Huerta, had then opined “Registration gives us the opportunity to educate these new airspace users before they fly so they know the airspace rules and understand they are accountable to the public for flying responsibly”.
The rules were accepted by the general public and the industry, as more than 800,000 owners registered their UAVs.
The rule required owners to pay a registration fee of $5 and register their drones in a nation-wide UAS registry. Owners would receive an ID number that needed to be attached to their drones. The unique ID number contained details of the owner (including name, address and email address) as well as the UAV (manufacturer, model and serial number).
The Federal Ruling
The FAA rule was challenged in the court of law. An argument was made that the agency did not have the authority to put such rules in place and the legislation went against FAA’s own rules that say it cannot “promulgate any rule or regulation regarding a model aircraft”. The US Court of Appeals in Washington DC concurred in May 2017, nullifying the rules.
With the registration rules back in place, owners of small drones will need to register themselves and their drones with the FAA. The registration fees remain $5. Registration and operating rules for small drone owners can be accessed at here.
Both the previous rules and the new legislation have received widespread support from members of the drone industry. Industry groups such as the Small UAV Coalition (having Precision Hawk, Amazon and Google as members) and the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) have come out in favour of the registration requirements.
There is a general belief that the registration system will promote safe and responsible flying and ensure drones do not pose security or privacy threats.
The Small UAV Coalition has suggested that there is bound to be further groundwork on putting in place additional regulations, as lawmakers adapt to increasing personal and commercial drone usage. Future laws could help enable remote identification and advanced tracking standards.