Back in December of 2015, the FAA began requiring hobby drone owners to register their drone online and subsequently mark the drone with a unique identifier. Nearly 300,000 drone users registered in the first month, and that number is estimated to have grown to just shy of 1,000,000 owners. And because this is the government, they tacked on a $5 fee when registering, bringing in close to $3 million.
One person in particular - John Taylor - wasn't happy about this new requirement and for good reason. He argued, rightfully so, that the FAA operated outside of the constraints of the 2012 FAA Modernization and Reform Act, passed by Congress and President Obama. Specifically, that Act stated that the FAA “may not promulgate any rule or regulation regarding a model aircraft.” The courts agreed with Mr. Taylor that the registration requirement violated this statute, and in May 2017, struck down the requirement:
So, as of right now, drone owners using their drones exclusively for hobby purposes do not need to register. And for those who gleefully registered their drones beforehand, the FAA is now offering refunds and deletion of your registration record.
For some of you budget hawks, you might be excited to get back that $5. For most of us though, I think we would prefer to take as much information out of the hands of Uncle Sam as possible. But before you rush to do that, there's a few reasons you should probably just leave your registration as is:
First off, the process isn't quite as easy as it could be. The FAA is going to make this as painful as possible. So unlike the nice easy online form you used to register and pay in the first place, the refund will require you to fill out this handy form and mail in to the FAA:
But the real reason you should leave your registration as is: It's probably coming back. Sure, the court found that it violated the 2012 FAA Modernization and Reform Act, but it might not violate the 2018 FAA Modernization and Reform Act - which is to say that the FAA just needs to get the property authority (Congress) to make the rule. And given the overwhelming support of the registration system from experts, it probably won't take a lot of debate to add this rule. In short, Mr. Taylor won the battle, but is likely losing the war. For those of us that kept our registration, we'll be set when this rule launches.