It’s been almost a year since the FAA introduced its new registration policy for hobby drones. One lawyer is hoping that his lawsuit against the FAA deems that the registration is illegal. Our Tyler Mason has more.
Baltimore attorney John Taylor has flown model aircraft since he was a kid. In recent years, that passion transitioned to flying drones.
But around Christmas of 2015, Taylor noticed something odd about a rule from the FAA. The agency required hobbyist drone pilots to register their drone and pay a small $5 fee to do so.
“From my reading of it, it sounded like yeah, this is patently illegal, and I’m not sure what they thought they were going to do here.” - John Taylor
Taylor’s lawsuit argues that the FAA is treating drones differently than other model aircraft. He says the drone registration goes against a 2012 law that prohibits the FAA from making new rules or regulations regarding model aircraft.
Taylor figured other attorneys or groups would file a lawsuit against the FAA. But when none did, he took it upon himself to challenge the registration law.
Though Taylor is a practicing attorney, he works as an insurance regulation lawyer. Still, he felt more than prepare to take on the FAA.
“I’ve become cynical after 30 years of practicing law. But I still believe if you’ve got the law on your side, the courts are fairly honest. And if you’ve got a good argument, you have the same standing and the same circumstances as a federal agency.”
- John Taylor
In December 2015, Taylor tried to get a temporary restraining order against the FAA. When that didn’t happen, he kept going. His case sits in the US Court of appeals, waiting for oral arguments to be scheduled.
“There’s really nothing I can do. It’s entirely out of my hands at this point. ... I’m assuming that this is all being handled in good faith and it’s going to move along in the usual courts.” - John Taylor
Taylor says he’s received lots of support from drone pilots throughout the country, including a crowdfunding campaign that helped him with his legal fees. He has also worked with several other attorneys as he’s built his case.
The best-case scenario now is that his lawsuit is successful and sparks change with how the FAA regulates drones.
“One of the issues of my suit is whether recreational model aircraft are even aircraft. I feel a very strong argument based on how the FAA has treated them the last 80 years or so that they’re not. And if they find that recreational model aircraft are not aircraft, then that creates a definition or creates a non-definition.”