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Court Ruling Leaves Drone Registry in Limbo

EAA focus is ensuring safety of manned flight and equitable airspace use by all

May 25, 2017 - The May 19 federal ruling that overturned the FAA’s drone registration rules has created confusion over future regulation of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), but EAA’s focus will continue to ensure any drone rules or operations do not threaten the safety of or impede manned flight.

The ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia revoked a 2015 rule that required recreational drone owners to register their machines with the FAA. Maryland attorney John Taylor challenged the rule, saying the FAA’s requirement conflicted with the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, which exempted any model aircraft from new FAA rules or regulations.

“The court’s ruling certainly puts any UAS/model aircraft/drone registration program in a state of disarray,” said Sean Elliott, EAA’s vice president of advocacy and safety. “However, it does not change EAA’s position on unmanned aerial vehicles and its use of our nation’s airspace. We will continue to highlight those essential needs to ensure safe operations for pilots and passengers, and airspace access for legal aviation operations.”

EAA has maintained the following positions for several years as drones have become more popular:

  • No new airspace restrictions should be forced on manned operations because of drone flights
  • Airspace right-of-way and priority should always be given to manned aircraft operations
  • Aircraft owners and pilots should not be required to install new equipment to track and see drones beyond that already required by FAA regulations

“Our top priority is safety within the airspace, but that safety should not come at a cost of access or installing new equipment to accommodate new entrants to the system,” Elliott said. “Safety should absolutely be the top priority of the UAS community as well as seeking to share the airspace already occupied by manned recreational, commercial, and military operations. Just one unfortunate accident or safety oversight by the drone community could bring an array of unintended and unforeseen new regulations to aviation..”

EAA participates in the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Safety Team, modeled after the General Aviation Joint Steering Committee for improving safety within the UAS community. EAA was also a founding partner in the “Know Before You Fly” education program for drone operators, introduced in January 2015.

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