In 2012, Congress placed the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) in charge of regulating small unmanned aircraft systems, also known as drones. In response, the FAA promulgated regulations in 2015 and 2016 targeting the drone industry. These regulations required operators to register their systems and meet minimum safety and certification requirements, but excluded operators of preexisting model aircraft.
So far, hobbyist drone operators have used the model aircraft exclusion to temporarily block drone registrations, relying on a D.C. Circuit court opinion by Judge Brett Kavanaugh in May of 2017. Trump signed a bill reinstating the registration requirement in December 2017, however. In addition, a recent court ruling out of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, Taylor v. Federal Aviation Administration (Case No. 16-302), upheld the FAA’s ability to regulate hobby drone operators.