Appeals court nixes FAA's drone registration rule

Updated: May. 22, 2017 at 5:32 PM HST
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(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Jessica Hamamoto is into aerial photography. She's one of the 760,000 recreational drone operators in the U.S. who were forced to register their drones with the Federal Aviation Administration under new rules.

"It wasn't that big of a deal to register, I did it online. $5, it's done," she said. "It didn't really bother me."

The FAA registry required recreational drones to be numbered in an FAA database meant to promote safety and make it possible to identify dangerous drone operators.

Hobby flyer Jenly Chen said the FAA rule was a mistake.

"I believe it was just rushed," he said. "They were stepping out of their boundaries, the FAA that is. So I never registered my drone."

A federal appeals court on Monday struck down the registration requirement, saying it violates laws that prohibit new regulations on model aircraft, including drones.

Drone salesman and service agent Mike Elliot says many owners are now confused over who's exempt. Some, he says, have called his Drone Services Hawaii business, asking for clarification.

"Commercial operators will still need to register, as it was before," he said. "Just the hobbyist side right now is not required to register."

The FAA said it instituted the registry "to ensure that drones are operated in a way that is safe and does not pose security and privacy threats." Agency spokesman Ian Gregor says the agency is still considering its options.

Since the registry began in December 2015, approximately 1.6 million drones have been registered. The FAA estimates hobbyists in the U.S. will buy 2.3 million drones this year.

Despite the ruling, Chen still thinks the FAA will need to have a system to keep track of them.

"Drones are the future," he said. "We are going to be seeing more and more of them. A registry is a must."

Hamamoto has mixed feelings about a registration requirement.

"I think that's it's fine if you have it. And if you don't, then that's fine too," she said.

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