A drone flying with a camera attached to its front
The FAA's authority over consumer drones has been reaffirmed by the US Court of Appeals

The US Court of Appeals has upheld the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) authority over consumer drones, leaving the door open for more flight laws and restrictions.

In 2012, Congress passed a law that gave the FAA the authority to regulate drones. However, the law specified that specific drone models were not subject to the FAA’s authority if they followed safety rules.

Despite those specific exemptions, this law didn’t sit well with drone hobbyist and activist John Taylor, so he sued the FAA. In his suit, he argued that all drones and hobbyists should be exempt from the FAA’s authority — not just specific drone models. The court ruled against Taylor and reaffirmed its position to give the FAA authority to regulate consumer drones.


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According to a report from Bloomberg, the court Friday decided to uphold its ruling to allow the FAA to govern amateur drone use, even though they intended to allow casual drone users some exemptions.

“Because the rule is within the agency’s statutory authority and is neither arbitrary nor capricious, the petition for review is denied,” wrote Judge Merrick Garland, author of the opinion of the panel.


This could prompt more flight regulation for drones

The court’s ruling could — and likely will — result in more drone flight regulations. So be prepared if more do come in the near future and be sure to keep up to date on any new requirements.

The L.A. Times also believes that this decision is a win for Google and Amazon. Both have been lobbying for more regulations on consumer drones to make way for projects like Prime Air and Project Wing.


  1. This article is somewhat inaccurate. There aren’t models of drones that are exempt, there are uses of drones that are exempt such as recreational vs. commercial, etc.

    If you are flying for recreation under the 336 carve out (which SPECIFICALLY includes membership in a nationwide organization such as the AMA), then you are exempt from most of the FAA regulations (they still control the airspace and 336 doesn’t exempt operators from those regulations, such as limiting a recreational flyer to Class G airspace for example). But there are no restrictions on models as stated in this article (though there is on weight of the aircraft mentioned that’s mentioned in 336).

    EVERY other use of drones IS regulated by the FAA, even recreational use that isn’t conforming to 336 (such as not being an AMA member or flying under a similar organization). Taylor was trying to extend 336 to include all pilots even when not a member of the AMA or such, and was destined for failure since the law clearly states that as a requirement.

    So if you go buy yourself a Mavic or a Phantom and are flying for recreation, but ARE NOT a member of the AMA (or similar organization), then you are regulated by the FAA and are likely flying illegally. You would need to get either your 107 (for commercial uses) or join the AMA (for recreation uses) to get legal.

    BUT, despite this ruling, the FAA is still limited in it’s authority to regulate those flying under the 336 carve out! The result of this court case is to leave the status quo intact, until it’s changed in law with the next FAA Reauthorization Act.

    In the meantime, the new regulations the FAA will be releasing do NOT affect drones flown for recreation where the operator is flying under 336, but they WILL affect 107 operators and anyone not conforming to 336.

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