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Hobbyists Lose Fight to Escape the FAA's Drone Rules

lisadoc

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Bad news for recreational fliers, just out today. Taylor lost his appeal.
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The U.S. government’s ability to police hobbyist drone use was upheld by an appellate court Friday in a ruling that helps set the stage for a series of new restrictions and requirements aviation regulators hope to enact soon.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on Friday rejected arguments by drone hobbyist John Taylor, who last year had successfully overturned the Federal Aviation Administration’s system for registering unmanned aircraft.

While the three-judge panel said Congress intended to exempt some hobbyists from regulation -- provided they weren’t creating a safety hazard -- they denied Taylor’s request to invalidate the rules.

“Because the rule is within the agency’s statutory authority and is neither arbitrary nor capricious, the petition for review is denied,” wrote Judge Merrick Garland, who authored the opinion for the panel.

Congress in 2012 passed a law that gave FAA authority over the new class of remotely piloted aircraft known as drones while also saying certain model aircraft flown by hobbyists who already followed safety rules by a “nationwide community-based organization” were exempt.

That has led some to argue that FAA can’t set regulations over drone flights by hobbyists. Taylor argued in this case that all hobbyists, not just those exempted by Congress, should be exempt from the law. Law year he successfully used the 2012 law to argue that the FAA’s drone registration system wasn’t legal, though Congress reinstated the registry months later.

Friday’s ruling is at least a partial win for companies including Alphabet Inc.’s Project Wing and Amazon.com Inc.’s Prime Air, which have urged regulators and lawmakers to impose additional standards on the millions of people who fly hobbyist drones. Such requirements are needed to ensure that it’s safe to operate the autonomous delivery systems they are developing, the companies say.

The FAA plans to release proposed new regulations later this year that will begin allowing drone flights over crowds and will require most or all of the devices to begin identifying themselves with radio beacons. The identification beacons are needed to satisfy U.S. security and law enforcement agencies, which fear the devices will be used by criminals or terrorists.

The case is Taylor v. Federal Aviation Administration, 16-1302, U.S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia (Washington).

https://www.cadc.uscourts.gov/inter...A8C852582B100518571/$file/16-1297-1736670.pdf
 

lisadoc

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Bloomberg Article

The skies aren’t big enough for everyone. On Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit reversed a ruling from last year that found the FAA cannot regulate small drones used by hobbyists. New regulations are expected to come soon, which should please companies that are trying to break into the commercial drone industry.

In 2015, the Federal Aviation Administration issued an interim final rulesetting up various requirements for drones that weigh less than 55 pounds and more than about half a pound. Though states and local governments had gradually set up their own rules as drones became more popular, the federal government had largely stayed out of the issue. New registration requirements and other prohibitions prompted a hobbyist named John Taylor to file a lawsuit against the administrator of the FAA, arguing that the agency didn’t have jurisdiction in the matter.

Last year, an appeals court sided with Taylor, saying that the FAA had historically stayed away from regulating model aircraft and that the 2012 FAA Modernization and Reform Act “codified the FAA’s longstanding hands-off approach to the regulation of model aircraft.” While the act was designed by Congress to instruct the FAA to pave the way for more commercial drone usage (like Amazon’s dream program of delivering packages from the sky), Section 336(a) specifically exempted model aircraft enthusiasts.

In today’s ruling, the court found that Section 336 didn’t mean the FAA gave up its regulatory oversight forever. In his opinion, Judge Merrick Garland wrote, “Section 336 also provides, however, that nothing in it ‘shall be construed to limit the authority of the [FAA] Administrator to pursue enforcement action against persons operating model aircraft who endanger the safety of the national airspace system.’”

While this affirms the regulatory burden on drone hobbyists, Bloomberg points out that this is a victory for big tech:
Friday’s ruling is at least a partial win for companies including Alphabet Inc.’s Project Wing and Amazon.com Inc.’s Prime Air, which have urged regulators and lawmakers to impose additional standards on the millions of people who fly hobbyist drones. Such requirements are needed to ensure that it’s safe to operate the autonomous delivery systems they are developing, the companies say.

In April, back when 336 was interpreted to negate the FAA’s toy drone rules, the Commercial Drone Alliance, a lobbying group that counts Alphabet among its members, specifically called for Congress to repeal Section 336, saying that “basic ‘rules of the road’ are needed to manage all this new air traffic.” While it is strange to see major corporations calling for more regulation, it’s also clear that running a dangerous commercial drone program at a national level would be a nightmare with a million amateurs flying around and no way of knowing what they’re doing. We asked Amazon and Google for comment on the ruling but didn’t receive an immediate reply.

Interestingly, today’s decision was written by President Obama’s pick for the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland. Garland was never granted a hearing by the Republican-controlled Senate. Now that President Trump is looking to fill an empty Supreme Court seat, conservative judge Brett M. Kavanaugh is considered to likely be his top pick. Kavanaugh wrote the original opinion that agreed with Taylor that this is not the FAA’s domain. If Kavanaugh gets the lifetime appointment and Taylor decides to push his case to the Supreme Court, the judge would likely recuse himself but who the hell knows.

Gizmodo Article
 

Chip

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Friday’s ruling is at least a partial win for companies including Alphabet Inc.’s Project Wing and Amazon.com Inc.’s Prime Air, which have urged regulators and lawmakers to impose additional standards on the millions of people who fly hobbyist drones. Such requirements are needed to ensure that it’s safe to operate the autonomous delivery systems they are developing, the companies say.

This chaps my hide. Commercial interests (and pilots) whipping up phony hysteria against hobby drones while paying bureacrats, lobbyists and politicians millions to flog their own selfish, profit driven agendas.Autonomous drones flying over the public for money is great idea but allowing some guy to fly a mavic in the park for fun is unacceptable, ginormous threat to national security and airspace. What an absolute crock.
 

Forcecilia

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64367AD6-1AD1-4032-A97A-B88966DC788F.png Big enough for me :) even in this **** hole i still fly high and proud
 

gnirtS

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Regulation was inevitable. Far too many knuckle draggers operating them unsafely and without common sense. Self-policing has failed.
 

Greg Smithski

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I said it before and I'll say it again. There's gold in them there skies and hobbyists are just in the way. Find me a positive article about hobbyist drone use or a negative article about corporate drone use.
 
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gnirtS

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You're lucky over there. The CAA PfCO (equivalent of Part 107) costs roughly $2600. Commercial lot really dont want competition.
 
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