John Taylor Sued the FAA Over Drone Registration... and Won.

Drones have changed the way we photograph everything. From big movies to live sports, drones provide us with angles once only achievable with a full sized helicopter. I mean look at this footage captured by Man and Drone.

That was taken on DJI Phantom 3, which has been replaced by the Phantom 4. So why would John Taylor, a middle aged insurance lawyer and a model aircraft enthusiast, want to sue the Federal Government over something that can make images like that? 

Well, it turns out, it's because the FAA was abusing its power and in a quote to the Washington Post, John says "It sounds corny. But as an attorney and citizen, the fact that they would so flagrantly violate a law . . . really stuck in my craw." 

Here's the short version of how we got here. In 2012 Congress and President Obama signed into law the 2012 FAA Modernization and Reform Act, which provides that the FAA "may not promulgate any rule or regulation regarding a model aircraft." 

Yet, in 2015, the FAA made a registration rule that made any civilian register their drone with the FAA for a $5 fee Registering through the online system and required a name, email and physical address. Users also had to acknowledge that they would follow basic safety guidelines, including flying below 400 feet; staying clear of stadiums, aircraft, airports and emergency response efforts; and not flying drunk. 

They made this rule... Even though the law previously stated that they had no jurisdiction to do so. (Note: FAA rules, regulations, and guidelines for commercial drone flights are exempt from the 2012 law.) 

John Taylor didn't care about the money, he cared about the Government overreach. This was a clear violation of a previously passed law. So, he sued the FAA, saying they didn't have a right to make this rule, and in an opinion on May 19, 2017, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit agreed with him. 

"To begin, Taylor does not think that the FAA had the
statutory authority to issue the Registration Rule and require
him to register. Taylor is right. In 2012, Congress passed and
President Obama signed the FAA Modernization and Reform
Act. Section 336(a) of that Act states that the FAA "may not
promulgate any rule or regulation regarding a model aircraft."
Pub. L. No. 112-95, § 336(a), 126 Stat. 11, 77 (2012) (codified
at 49 U.S.C. § 40101 note). The FAA's 2015 Registration
Rule, which applies to model aircraft, directly violates that
clear statutory prohibition. We therefore grant Taylor's
petition and vacate the Registration Rule to the extent it applies
to model aircraft."

We need more people like John Taylor. It's the little freedoms that are worth fighting for because once you let someone take something small away from you, it's much easier for them to take something bigger away next time. And if they came and took all our drones away, we wouldn't be able to see Rome like this. 

(photo by Vadim Sherbakov)

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