In what might very well be destined to become a landmark legal case of our modern times, a man is suing the Federal Aviation Administration over the mandatory drone registry that went into effect this past December. John Taylor, a Maryland lawyer and drone enthusiast has filed a lawsuit against the FAA questioning the legality of such a registry, with the main argument being that this registration program for drones violates a pertinent legal clause in the FAA Modernization and Reform Act. Section 336 of the act prohibits the FAA from establishing new regulations and rules that govern modern aircrafts, and Taylor is arguing that drones would fit under that umbrella.
Expecting blowback from the registry, Taylor assumed a lawsuit would be filed against the FAA almost immediately when it went into effect December 21. When nothing came to fruition, Taylor took up the cause himself and first went to the Maryland state court to file a suit. He was instructed to take his fight to Washington where overnight he rewrote his lawsuit for the U.S. Court of Appeals and filed it on Christmas Eve. Taylor’s case is not associated with the firm he works at as he’s taking on the fight for drone freedom purely pro bono, though his high-profile suit has garnered the attention and support of other drone enthusiasts, some of whom are pitching in to help cover the legal costs.
Hoping to halt the registration before the Christmas rush of drones hit, Taylor also filed a motion to freeze the drone registry, but the court denied this motion. With the next filing deadline for the case in the Court of Appeals approaching on January 27, drone owners are still required to register their drones with the FAA by February 19 or face fines of up to $250,000 and as much as three years of jail time. Taylor’s main argument will be that specific section of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act, which he believe clearly spells out that the drone registry is illegally establishing federal regulation and the FAA is overreaching their power. The FAA has spoken out, defending the registry as a complement to existing regulation on model aircrafts.
While he’s garnered the support of other drone attorneys and enthusiasts across the country (including a fundraiser meant to bolster the charge for drone liberation), Taylor’s case is still very much in its nascent stages. We’ll have to wait and see how the Court of Appeals comes down on the matter once Taylor and the FAA submit their suits, but the outcome could have ramifications on commercial drone usage in the United States. And if one thing is for certain, many drone owners like Taylor are very protective of their toys.