US-based industry body Helicopter Association International (HAI) has issued a statement saying it strongly disagrees with the decision by appeals court judges to halt the registration of drones deemed to be ‘model aircraft’. The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued a decision on 19 May that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) did not have the statutory authority to issue the Registration Rule, which required drone operators to register with the FAA.
The court’s ruling on a case brought by model aircraft enthusiast John Taylor begins by classifying ‘unmanned aircraft operated for recreational purposes’ as ‘model aircraft’. It continues: “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’ … 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.”
In its response, HAI said: “Helicopters routinely operate at the same low altitudes as drones, and we in the helicopter industry are deeply concerned about our ability to fly safely in air space where pilots could encounter any unmanned aircraft, be it commercial or otherwise. One valuable component of the FAA’s drone registration programme is the opportunity to educate the general population about the hazards of careless drone operation, and we believe that the FAA’s drone registration programme serves to protect everyone in the air and on land. HAI strongly urges Congress to allow the FAA to do what the FAA does best: to provide safe and efficient use of our national airspace. We request that the FAA be given the governance and oversight over all forms of aircraft in order to ensure the safety of the National Airspace System.”
Read the court’s ruling here.