While the FAA Drone Registration program has had extremely vocal critics and proponents, it looks like its “game on” now as a lawsuit challenging the legality of the program was filed in the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on December 24. Forbes reports that John A. Taylor, an insurance attorney of Silver Spring, Maryland and a passionate drone hobbyist, has brought the suit and will represent himself. Taylor told Forbes that he had expected other hobby groups or drone manufacturers to file suit against the FAA over the registration rules but decided to take action himself when he did not see other suits filed.
Mr. Taylor has asked the court to “issue an order declaring that the [FAA’s registration rule] is void” and sites the seeming contradiction of the prohibition against new rules concerning model aircraft laid out in the 2012 Modernization Act as the basis of his complaint. The legality of the registration program has been questioned from many parties; some on the basis of the wording of the Modernization Act and others as the FAA did not allow for the full comment period required by law. The FAA has responded to these charges by stating that the registration program does not constitute a new law, as aircraft registration has always been required.
Mr. Taylor requested an emergency stay of the registration requirement while the case was resolved; but that request was denied by the Court of Appeals on December 24, when the court said that Mr. Taylor ” has not satisfied the stringent requirements for a stay pending court review.” The next filing deadline for the case is January 27; the FAA has not responded.
This lawsuit is the first known to be filed; although the AMA said in a letter to members asking them to hold off on registration that the organization was pursuing “all legal and political remedies to address this issue.” The AMA filed a petition with the US Court of Appeals in August of 2014, asking the court to review the FAA’s interpretation of the “Special Rule for Model Aircraft.” The AMA denies that the FAA has the authority to expand the definition of aircraft to include model aircraft and to impose laws and regulations on model aircraft operators. The petition remains unresolved.