On Tuesday December 12, 2017, President Trump signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act (“NDAA”). Section 1092(d) of the NDAA restores the requirement that owners of unmanned aircraft systems (“UAS”) used for recreational purposes (“Model Aircraft”) must register and mark their UAS in accordance with the Federal Aviation Administration’s (“FAA”) “Registration and Marking Requirements for Small Unmanned Aircraft” published on December 16, 2015 (“Registration and Marking Requirements”).
The Registration and Marking Requirements were vacated with respect to Model Aircraft by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in the Taylor v. Huerta decision on May 19, 2017. Specifically, the court found that the FAA did not have sufficient statutory authority under the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 to promulgate “any rule or regulation regarding model aircraft.”
Section 1092(d) of the NDAA now makes it clear that the registration and marking requirements for small UAS that were vacated in Taylor v. Huerta “shall be restored to effect on the date of enactment of this Act.” UAS owners are once again required to register their UAS with FAA by providing their name, address, and email address and paying a $5 fee. Once the registration process is complete, UAS owner will receive a unique registration number that must be affixed to the UAS in compliance with the Registration and Marking Requirements.
Proponents of enforcing the Registration and Marking Requirements with respect to all UAS believe that this will allow regulators to more easily enforce operational restrictions on UAS, including the prohibitions on the operation of UAS in restricted airspace or interference with the flight of commercial airliners. Enforcement is also important as privacy concerns surrounding UAS operations continue to grow.