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A Better Partnership


Jun 2017
June 06, 2017

Court Grounds the FAA: Recreational Drone Flyers May Avoid Registration

Recently, a U.S. Court of Appeals struck down the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) rule requiring registration of drones used exclusively for recreational purposes.

Federal law establishes the FAA’s authority to set rules and regulations for the use of “model aircraft,” including recreational drones. That law places restrictions on the ways the FAA can (and cannot) regulate such aircraft. Interpreting the scope of the FAA’s authority under this law, the court found that the FAA did not have the power to require drone users to register drones that are used strictly for recreational purposes. That rule exceeded the FAA’s authority, the court said.

Still, recreational drone users must meet certain conditions to avoid trouble with the FAA, including:
  • Following community-based safety guidelines;
  • Avoiding flight over people;
  • Limiting the weight of the drone to fifty-five pounds or less;
  • Safely operating in the National Airspace System; and
  • Using the drone strictly for hobby or recreational use.

Importantly, this decision applies only to recreational drone users. If an operator uses a drone for a commercial purpose, there is a separate set of more stringent FAA rules (including registration requirements) for such commercial use.

If you have any questions about the court’s decision or how it may affect you or your company’s drone use, please feel free to contact Clint Westbrook at 616.752.2748 or, or Lance Zoerhof at 616.752.2384 or for assistance.

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