Complying with a recent appellate court ruling, the FAA said it will delete the registration information it has collected from recreational drone users and return the $5 fee at their request. On July 3, the agency made available a “registration deletion and self-certification” form that registrants must complete and mail to the FAA Civil Aviation Registry in Oklahoma City.
The FAA’s offer to de-list drone hobbyists acknowledges a May 19 finding by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that its online registration system is unlawful. The agency had 45 days from the date of the ruling to seek a rehearing before the full court, but the court has now issued a final order, Forbes reported.
Reacting to a rash of rogue-drone sightings by pilots and others near airports, the Department of Transportation and the FAA used an expedited rulemaking process to establish the registry of recreational drone users in December 2015. But the D.C. Circuit Court, in the case of Taylor v. Huerta, determined that the registry violated a provision of 2012 FAA reauthorization legislation—Section 336—that prevents the agency from regulating model aircraft as long as they are flown safely. As of the court’s decision, the FAA had collected names, addresses and other information from 763,678 drone hobbyists.
During a presentation at the Paris Air Show in mid-June, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta disclosed that the agency was considering a way for drone hobbyists to “de-register” their names in light of the court’s decision. Observers expect the FAA will try to revive the registry in the next reauthorization bill, and Huerta suggested that it will strictly interpret Section 336 language that excuses from regulation those hobbyists who operate within the programming of a “community-based organization” such as the Academy of Model Aeronautics.
“What the court invalidated,” Huerta said, “was the applicability of the registry for a subset of hobbyists that are not in compliance with a specific requirement that they be part of a community-based organization that has standards for safety.”
In the latest registration-deletion announcement, the FAA states that owners of model aircraft “which are operated in compliance with Section 336 are not required to register. Owners of all other small unmanned aircraft, including newly-purchased unmanned aircraft not operated exclusively in compliance with Section 336, remain subject to the registration requirement.”
The agency said that it continues to encourage voluntary registration by the owners of small unmanned aircraft.