back to article America's drone owner database grounded: FAA rules blown out of sky

A US federal appeals court has struck down rules requiring recreational drones and other model aircraft to be registered with America's aviation watchdog, the FAA – but left in place airspace restrictions affecting drones in the Washington, DC area. Attorney and recreational drone pilot John A. Taylor filed the legal challenge …

  1. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. a_yank_lurker

      Re: They won't give refunds.

      The IRS loves as well as the rest of the feral bureaucracy love making one bend over and take it. They do not care who the victim is or who is in White House.

    2. Florida1920

      Re: They won't give refunds.

      Not sure about that. FCC tried charging a fee for new or renewal amateur radio licenses several years ago, but was overruled, and refunded the payments. A ham still has to pay for a new or renewed vanity call sign. If FAA broke the law, I don't see how they can get out of having to refund the registration fees, regardless of who's in the White House.

      1. Danny 14

        Re: They won't give refunds.

        Of course you can have a refund. The triplicate form is available by mail only. Needs countersigning by your local tax office (by hand). Photocopy (not picture ) of your original registration. Then may take up to 4 weeks (if it isnt lost).

        1. Ugotta B. Kiddingme

          Re: They won't give refunds.

          The form is "in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard.”

  2. asdf

    >but left in place airspace restrictions affecting drones in the Washington, DC area.

    Glad to see what's good for the goose and all that.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "imagine the challenge of a local police officer at a parade trying to determine which drones are properly there to photograph the festivities – and which may be operated by individuals with more sinister purposes,"

    And how, exactly, does registration solve this problem? Is the officer supposed to pull every drone over and ask for its license and registration?

    1. Mark 85

      Give it time... once some nutcase weaponizes a drone and flies it into a parade, that will change.. The cops will shoot on sight.

      1. heyrick Silver badge

        The cops will shoot on sight.

        Don't they already?

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

          Re: The cops will shoot on sight.

          weaponizes a drone

          How about 100 drones?

          You could deliver a few kg of TNT in a "autonomous bomblet" application.

          The cat is out of the bag.

          Maybe somebody already wrote up the idea for "inspire".

          Targeted kills by hi-tech trickery: It's not only for Mossad anymore.

          1. Truckle The Uncivil

            Re: The cops will shoot on sight.

            @Destroy All Monsters

            I would be more worried about an Anthrax aerosol or something of that nature.

  4. G R Goslin

    The usual way out

    The usual way out of these situations is to make some statutory requirement that cannot be provided. Like requiring a huge third party insurance provision, that no insurance company would cover. It's been done before.

    1. PTW

      Re: The usual way out

      r/c plane owners always used to carry public liability insurance in the UK back in the 70/80s. It was neither prohibitively expensive, nor IIRC mandatory. It is however eminently sensible and shows you give more than a flying fcuk about your fellow humans [pun intended]

      So, yes, if you're flying 55lbs of stuff that can drop on someone's head/house/car then public liability insurance should be mandatory

    2. Orv Silver badge

      Re: The usual way out

      You'd be surprised what insurance companies will cover, BUT...they will have rules you have to follow. Those become de-facto regulations on whatever activity you're insuring. This is very common in motorsports, skydiving, hang-gliding, soaring, and other high-risk activities like that. The organization's liability insurance usually dictates what they're allowed to let you do on their property.

  5. Haku

    For the curious

    This is the thread on where John A. Taylor announced his challenge to the FAA's model aircraft registration regulation, with links to the pdf documents he submitted

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: For the curious

      I'm curious about the 55 lb weight limit for 'model' aircraft - how are 'Large' models classed, such as those featured on this website:

      1. NotBob

        Re: For the curious

        It's been a while, but I believe you end up getting a permit to fly. The AMA has moved the paperwork to members-only, so I can't see it, but it probably requires insurance, specific inspections, enhanced site requirements (bigger area in case something goes wrong), and possibly notifying the nearest airport.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: For the curious

          "and possibly notifying the nearest airport."

          IIRC from previous discussions, "large" models, at least in the UK, require a flight worthiness assessment and must notify the relevant authorities before flying.

  6. bombastic bob Silver badge

    stupid l[aw]yers

    stupid l[aw]yers mucking things up. again.

    The FAA has every right to control where you can and cannot use a drone aircraft, particularly because THEY! ARE! NAVIGATIONAL! HAZARDS! when flown in certain areas, such as near airports within the flight path of the approach pattern etc. etc.. I think some student pilot wanting to practice touch & go landings doesn't need to have to DODGE DRONES on landing approach and on takeoff. It's a DiSASTER waiting to happen.

    Drone owners, on the other hand, could be restricted to specific areas. And a drone registry is NOT a bad idea at all. If YOUR drone is involved in an aircraft accident, there's a liability involved. Or, similarly, if your drone comes crashing down on a person, vehicle, pet, house, whatever, then it is the responsibility of the drone owner to deal with the aftermath.

    I guess Con-Grab is going to have to legislate something now. I thought the FAA's "light touch" approach was pretty sane. but NOOOOoooo... some petty fornicating LYER had to come along and do something STOOOPID, and *NOW* ConGrab will produce a WORSE, GUMMINT-FILLED, IDIOTIC, RIGHTS-INFRINGING solution to the obvious problem.

    1. Kevin Johnston

      Re: stupid l[aw]yers

      I may be mistaken, it has happened before on 12th January 1973 if I recall correctly, but there are regulations regarding use of radio controlled aircraft in the vicinity of airfields which would cover your 'student pilot' scenario.

      That doesn't prevent people being a complete arse about this stuff but, y'know, use existing rules/laws before playing the sledgehammer legislation card

    2. Orv Silver badge

      Re: stupid l[aw]yers

      Congress actually created the original problem here with their own bit of "light touch" legislation.

      The 2012 "FAA Modernization and Reform Act" forbids the FAA to regulate model aircraft. When this was passed, they probably didn't realize that they were undermining *existing* FAA rules from the 1980s. These set limits on altitude and how close you could fly to an airport, mostly. Now it's the wild west.

    3. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

      Re: stupid l[aw]yers

      ..And a drone registry is NOT a bad idea at all. If YOUR drone is involved in an aircraft accident, there's a liability involved. Or, similarly, if your drone comes crashing down on a person, vehicle, pet, house, whatever, then it is the responsibility of the drone owner to deal with the aftermath.....

      Sounds like a good reason for not joining the register, then...

  7. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Justice grinds ever more finely

    One cannot complain that the letter of the law is being respected and that is a good thing.

    It is nonetheless quite useful to have some legal framework around the usage of drones in order to not have them wreak havoc when it comes to flight hazards, respect of privacy and so on.

    So, although this is not the solution, a solution still has to be found.

    Back to the grindstone, people.

    1. NotBob

      Re: Justice grinds ever more finely

      In less populated areas, a shotgun loaded with bird shot has been shown effective.

      Now we need to see if we can use some form of rubber bullet for the same effect...

  8. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    It'll all change when an airliner engine ingests a drone. At that point there'll be all sorts of legislation introduced in a big hurry.

    1. Eddy Ito

      You know that legislation is likely already written and is so onerous that nobody wants it known about until it comes to a time where something must be done! At which point the 1200 page law with all kinds of new rules will be passed nearly unanimously within 30 minutes of when it sees daylight because it will have a moniker like The Patriot Safer Skys and Pedophilia Prevention Act.

    2. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

      For a typical recreational drone, I suspect that the airliner would not notice it. Similar to a small bird strike...

  9. MNGrrrl
    Thumb Up

    How to tell if they're "evil" drones or "good" ones

    A lot of people are asking how we can tell the good from the bad. Actually, it's not really that hard. These quadcopters that are the rage right now can't carry much, and they have such a small airframe that what they're carrying is immediately visible. As I'm sure we've seen, these things have crashed into people before -- even right into their heads. I'm not saying it doesn't hurt, or can't cause some injuries, but as a weapon... you'd be better off throwing a large rock at them.

    The police don't really need to worry about these as long as there aren't a lot of them to obscure a real threat, or big enough that the airframe can carry an actual payload. A drone that weighs 50 pounds is gonna make a lot of noise. It will announce its presence. It will be an obvious potential threat. If the FAA simply lowered the weight requirements for what "recreational" is, or altered some of the rules to say that the interior of the airframe can't exceed certain dimensions, it would be "safe enough" for the public to use. Not perfect safety, but decent.

    And for people worried about drones hitting actual aircraft: Your quadcopter is not a goose. It will never be a goose. It does not pose the threat a goose does. And we build airplanes to survive geese. If you fly your quadcopter into the flight path of a 777, the only thing it will do is, if it's *really* close to the beginning of the runway it might muck up ILS, but very probably not -- so all its going to do is hit the plane, turn into shrapnel, and the pilot will make a comment saying "Welp, someone just lost their toy" and turn on the windshield wipers to brush its remains off... assuming there was enough of it left. If it gets eaten by an engine, the engine won't really care. Any damage will be minor enough the next maintenance overhaul will see and scrape it off. Basically, a few pieces of burnt plastic or a few flecks of metal lodged in a burner. Maybe.

    It's much ado, about not much.

    1. Justicesays

      Re: How to tell if they're "evil" drones or "good" ones

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: How to tell if they're "evil" drones or "good" ones

        That does say "small drones are fine", only "larger drones" are a potential problem.

        And it doesn't say what it means by a "larger" drone anywhere in the article. That's odd.

        A steel ball "the size of a grape" isn't a valid standin for a motor either. Motors are not solid, much of the mass is copper wire, soft iron and magnets.

        Why not use an actual motor?

    2. hoola Silver badge

      Re: How to tell if they're "evil" drones or "good" ones

      So you would be perfectly happy to be on a test aircraft on take-off when various sized drones are placed in the flight path to see if it damages the engines?

      Geese tend to be inert and not explode, well it may a bit but not like a lithium battery.

      Sorry but when (and it is when) several hundred people on the plane plus however many on ther ground have been killed, at that point everyone will be scream "why didn't they do something to stop it happening".

      A 50LB drone, that is near enough 25KG and I have never seen a goose that big.

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: How to tell if they're "evil" drones or "good" ones

        No, the test was not representative and the reportage useless.

        Thin steel casings with magnets and copper coils along with carbon fibre rods are very different to foam and steel balls.

        Maybe real drones are more damaging? Or less?

        Nobody knows until somebody actually jabs it pointy end first with a real drone, and I would much prefer that happened in a lab instead of a flightpath.

    3. Orv Silver badge

      Re: How to tell if they're "evil" drones or "good" ones

      A drone is a lot denser than a goose. (Consider: do drones float?) That ups the damage potential. They're also made of harder materials, which makes engine damage more likely. I agree any one strike is unlikely to cause problems, but if there are enough of them, sooner or later someone is going to die.

      There's also knock-on effects. Here in SoCal there have been problems with people flying drones over wildfire sites, preventing fire bombers from doing water drops. That's a real danger to property, at very least, since it allows the fire to spread unchecked.

    4. Truckle The Uncivil

      Re: How to tell if they're "evil" drones or "good" ones


      Okay, I like what you said and it gets an up vote from me. There is a caveat though. People evaluate risks differently.

      My father was apprenticed as an aircraft mechanic at 15 and spent his life at that profession becoming an inordinately qualified LAME. He always said "only fools fly". Not that he never flew. His point was never to compound a risk unecessarily.

      Aircraft are designed to cope with all sorts of strikes when new and perfect. Nevertheless, sometimes strikes can be catastrophic for compound reasons.

      After an aircraft has been in service for a while all you can be sure of is that it will no longer pass the same tests as when new (mind you it is also better tested for what it has been through).

      Regulators, engineers and mechanics need my father's attitude to keep aviation as safe as possible. Pilots need your attitude or they would never climb in the seat of a single seater let alone take responsibility for a crew and passengers. It takes both attitudes to make the system work. Checks and balances maybe?

      We all depend on others assessment of safety all the time. Even in your own home; did you check the wiring? Plumbing? Perhaps we all need to be a bit more aware that we live only on the surface of our lives. There is no time for more.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Meh... registration fee was only $5 a drone.

    Not a wallet busting registration by any means.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Droning and train spotting

    Do participants of both hobbies wear the same brand of anorak?

    Asking for a friend...

  12. Peter Galbavy

    To add some research to conjecture, see - around actual injuries likely from a small (<2kg) UAS/RPA/drone.

    1. Eddy Ito

      Still looks like it hurt

  13. Tikimon

    Imagine the challenge...

    Imagine the challenge of a local police officer at a parade trying to determine which:

    - drones are properly there to photograph the festivities

    - cars are legitimately parked and do not contain bombs

    - backpacks are legitimate and do not contain a bomb or firearm

    - propane tanks are legitimate for food vendors and not really a bomb

    - children's balloons are legitimate and do not contain nerve gas

    - people are legitimate and not there to unleash ninja whoop-ass on the crowd

    ...and which may be operated by individuals with more sinister purposes.

    Cops should learn to do their feckin' jobs and not expect Bad Guy - Good Guy lists to do it for them.

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