US Drone Registry is Shot Down
By Richard Stobbe
In response to the proliferation of recreational drones in American skies, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) introduced a rule known as the “Registration Rule” in 2015. The rule required drone owners to register their drones with the FAA. A recreational operator filed petitions in US Federal Court to challenge the FAA's jursdiction to make the Registration Rule. The drone operator’s argument was that the FAA lacked statutory authority to issue the Registration Rule since it was outside the scope of the FAA’s jurisdiction. Last week, a US Federal Court of Appeals decision agreed and quashed the FAA’s Registration Rule.
This represents a set-back for the FAA’s regulatory reach over drones, and it illustrates the jurisdictional quandry of aviation regulators. In the US case, the FAA’s authority was actually curtailed by an earlier 2012 law, and this case did not turn upon a question of constitutional juridiction.
In Canada, there is a separation of powers between federal and provincial governments, and aviation falls into federal authority (as it does in the US). It is certainly open to drone operators to question the scope of the federal rule-making authority on constitutional grounds. In fact, in the drone industry that type of fight is likely to occur sooner or later in Canada.
If the FAA does not confirm its regulatory scope either through a court decision or amended legislation, then it won’t be able to maintain the drone Registration Rule. In any event, mere registration pales in comparison with the level of control that is suggested by this reported plan: The Trump administration is planning to ask Congress to give the federal government sweeping powers to “track, hack and destroy any type of drone over domestic soil with a new exception to laws governing surveillance, computer privacy and aircraft protection.”
This makes recent Canadian drone regulations positively benign by comparison.
Calgary – 07:00 MT