Description: News was made last month when an attorney successfully sued the FAA over its registration process. But what does that mean for the drone industry moving forward? Our Tyler Mason caught up with the lawyer whose case recently made the headlines.
In a classic case of David versus Goliath, John Taylor took on the FAA — and won. Taylor, a Maryland-based attorney, sued the Federal Aviation Administration for its drone registration rule.
The FAA had previously required that drone pilots pay a $5 fee to register their aircraft. Based on the FAA’s definition of a drone as a model aircraft, Taylor believed the registration was illegal — and so did the United States court system.
In mid-May, the Federal Appellate Court ruled the registration requirement to be unlawful. Taylor won his case after a lengthy wait.
“It all kind of played out in a way that wasn’t unexpected. The timing of it is very unfortunate because one of my hopes was that the decision would come down at a time when there was a lull in the hysteria, there was nothing going on and people would have an opportunity to digest it and perhaps everybody would just move on as thing had been for decades before in our hobby. As it turns out, it’s come down just as Congress is looking at presumably a final version of FAA reauthorization.”
But what does it mean for drone pilots now that the lawsuit is over? Even Taylor admits there’s still plenty of confusion.
The FAA hasn’t been clear, Taylor said, about what pilots should do now with drones already registered. The same goes for drone operators who have yet to register their drones. The FAA’s website currently says it encourages pilots to register, but does not say it’s required.
As for getting your $5 registration fee back? Taylor says that’s not a guarantee.
“To be honest with you, I’m not sure I know the answer to that yet. I’ve done some preliminary research and didn’t find anything. I think the thing to do is to first wait and see what the FAA decides to do, to see if they’re going to voluntarily refund that money.”
So what’s next for drone regulations now that Taylor has won his case? If it were up to Taylor, he’d require major drone manufacturers to make pilots pass a test before being allowed to operate an aircraft.
As far as regulating and tracking pilots, Taylor doesn’t believe the drone registration process ever did anything to that extent in the first place.
"I noticed a lot of the media saying, ‘Well, this guy won this case, but now how do we hold people accountable?’ Unfortunately, you don’t get to respond to a newspaper article. The answer is, this was never used to hold anyone accountable, as far as I was able to determine. It was there for a year and a half and nobody was ever brought up on charges based on this.”
Taylor received plenty of praise from those in the drone community, but he also heard some criticisms about what it could mean for future regulations. The bottom line, though, is that the FAA is still trying to figure out the best way to regulate the ever-growing drone industry.
Taylor’s lawsuit added to the discussion and may have future implications as well.
“As it turns out, it’s come down just as Congress is looking at presumably a final version of FAA reauthorization. This has always been an issue that’s been part of the reauthorization. So my concern and the concern of others is this may actually inflame the hysteria and result in Congress doing something with the FAA that either gives them the same authority, more authority, perhaps even creates negative mandates. We’ll have to see what happens.”
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