The D.C. Circuit ruled late last week that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Drone Registration Rule does not apply to model aircraft. The court held that the FAA does not have authority to regulate model aircraft under the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, and therefore, vacated the drone registration rule for model aircraft.

The plaintiff, (my friend John Taylor), is a recreational model aircraft hobbyist. He challenged the FAA’s registration rule soon after it was enacted, arguing that the rule should not extend to model aircraft, and that the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 specifically states that the FAA cannot issue rules or regulations for model aircraft.

According to the FAA, the Drone Registration Rule applied to all unmanned aircraft and model aircraft that weigh between .55 pounds and 55 pounds, which would include model aircraft and toys. The court disagreed with the FAA and excluded model aircraft from the registration rule pursuant to the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. The court stated that Congress can repeal or amend the statute, but that the statute clearly does not allow the FAA to regulate model aircraft and therefore, model aircraft are excluded from the registration requirement.The FAA is weighing its options following the decision.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center is also challenging the Registration Rule alleging that it fails to address privacy risks to individuals.