Recently, pilots in the United States had to pay $5 to register their drones with the FAA. Surprisingly, the FAA was never allowed to even create or maintain a registry, so the FAA is refunding pilots’ and removing drone data from the created registry.
Pilots should not expect to get a check for $5 in the mail, the FAA will not be sending out automatic refunds; they must download a form and send it directly to the FAA after filling it out. Only after the form is received by the FAA will the agency delete a pilot’s personal information and refund the money to the person’s bank account.
The registry required that all drone pilots register their drone, pay the $5 fee, and use an identification code on their drone to help it be identified by the appropriate authorities. This summer, a judge found that the FAA was not legally allowed to extend this registry to private drone pilots, because a federal statue prevents the creation of regulations surrounding model aircraft; ultimately, this led to the FAA having to delete private drone pilots’ data.
The judge’s decision does not extend to commercial drones, and so they will still have to be registered in the FAA‘s database. Additionally, private drones will still not be allowed to trespass into no-fly zones without obtaining permission or permits; these zones include airports and military bases.
By the time this court ruled against the FAA, over 800,000 drone pilots had registered to the FAA’s database. Michael Huerta, an FAA administrator, could not tell journalists how many of those registrants were private drone pilots, it is still likely that the FAA will have to refund millions of dollars to pilots.
The FAA is trying to change its drone regulations to comply with the judge’s decision, because they still believe in the database. The FAA still encourages private drone pilots to register, even though it is no longer necessary for private pilots to do so. The FAA is also developing technology to create a remote drone identification system, which may cause the database itself to be obsolete in the future.