In sharp contrast to DOT’s protracted rulemaking on small unmanned aircraft systems (“SUAS”), FAA’s task force on UAS registration issues, formed in late October 2015 in response to an alleged and highly-publicized increase in unsafe UAS operations, issued a set of recommendations on November 21.  The task force solicited public comments on the registration of small unmanned aircraft systems (“SUAS”) and took it into account and the participants – who represented UAS manufacturers, model aircraft operators, sUAS interest groups, retail companies seeking to operate sUAS for commercial purposes, general aviation, and the airline industry – met for three days before coming to a consensus recommendation.

According to the recommendations, “the Task Force undertook the task to develop and recommend a registration process that ensures accountability for users of the NAS and encourages a maximum level of compliance with the registration requirement, while not unduly burdening the nascent UAS industry and its enthusiastic owners and users of all ages.”  And while FAA’s October 22 notice and request for comments clarified that the statutory requirements regarding aircraft registration of UAS apply to aircraft used for recreational or hobby purposes, the final recommendations acknowledge that the task force lacked time to assess the impact of a registration requirement on the recreational operation of model aircraft.

The Task Force’s recommendations are non-binding.  FAA’s eventual registration requirements may differ in one or more important respects from those suggested by the Task Force, although nothing in the recommendations indicates that FAA is opposed to any of the suggested approaches; if changes are eventually made, it is likely they will address the scope of the registration requirement and the recommendation that all sUAS weighing more than 250 grams – which would include a variety of so-called “toy sUAS” – be subject to a registration obligation.

If you have any questions, please contact Evelyn Sahr (esahr@eckertseamans.com, 202-659-6622), Drew Derco (dderco@eckertseamans.com, 202-659-6665), or Reese Davidson (rdavidson@eckertseamans.com, 202-659-6633).

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