Get ready to fork up a few dollars to register that hefty but totally innocent drone of yours. The FAA’s requirement to have drones of certain weights registered is now back and this time it has some staying power. More than just an FAA rule, it has become part of the US law. That is partly due to the fact that the registration requirement is just a very small part of a larger, and more expensive, National Defense Authorization Act that US President Trump just signed into law.
The Federal Aviation Administration’s 2015 rules requiring owners of drones weighing between 0.5 and 55 lbs to register their flying robots was shot down just last May by a D.C. appeals court. The court argued that the FAA didn’t have the authority to regulate such products, which it categorized under model aircraft. The FAA, naturally, said it would think of another strategy.
That strategy might have been to sneak in the requirement into a broader law, one that Trump would undoubtedly sign. The $700 billion act was, after all, in line with Trump’s goal of boosting the US’ military chops. He might have been willing to overlook a minuscule part of the Act that would have repercussions for unassuming consumers.
The FAA is naturally happy about the turn of events, but it’s not going to be smooth-sailing forward. Before the courts shot down its registration rule, the FAA already collected $5 from the 838,620 owners who already registered. The agency already started refunding those in response to the ruling. Now both the FAA and drone owners are left in limbo on how to proceed now that the requirement has been reinstated.
While many consumers, especially those with tiny drones, will be none too happy, it’s not exactly surprising that the law has headed in this direction. The number of drones taking to the skies is growing rapidly, and some of them flying into places they have no business being in. Unsurprisingly, there are even those, including US officials, who have come to see drones as potential weapons or, at the very least, spying machines for other governments.