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Recreational Drone Sales Leads to Mandatory Registration System

The recent surge in recreational drone sales coupled with an increase in potential dangers to general aviation traffic have prompted the Federal Aviation Authority to consider a national centralized system for drone registration. Issues have ranged from drones interfering with airborne aircraft to complicating efforts to fight fires.

On October 19, federal aviation regulators announced a mandatory system to register and track recreational drones purchased by a growing group of hobbyists. Those hobbyists are on track to buy approximately 700,000 drones by the end of this year, which equates to a 63 percent increase over last year's sales.

The details for the registration system have not been ironed out, but are expected to be issued by November 20, so that the registry can be up and running before the upcoming holiday shopping season, a time when countless drones are likely to be purchased. The registration process may include recordation of the specific drone and purchaser's identity at the time of sale. It may also include online registration and electronic confirmation that the purchaser is familiar with the general rules for operating drones in the United States. A task force composed of approximately 25 government officials and industry leaders will convene to hammer out the proposed rules.

Regulators believe the national drone registration will assist government and law enforcement officials in identifying culprits of drone-related incidents. They also believe it will lead to a higher level of accountability by hobbyists before they send their drones into potentially dangerous situations. U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Fox said “registering unmanned aircraft will help build a culture of accountability and responsibility, especially with new users who have no experience operating in the U.S. aviation system.” Fox also said the system "will help protect public safety in the air and on the ground.”

It is important to note that the mandatory registration regime will likely not only apply to new drones, but will also cover those who have purchased drones in recent years. It is likely there will be penalties imposed on those hobbyists who fail to comply. Further information on the task force that will be issuing the recommendations for mandatory drone registration can be found here.

Aside from the mandatory drone registration system, government and law enforcement will also have access to new tools designed to disable drones in the sky. A company known as Battle Innovations has introduced the DroneDefender, which enables law enforcement to disable drones using radio pulses to disrupt a drone's communications system. The company plans to start selling the DroneDefender in 2016

© 2020 BARNES & THORNBURG LLPNational Law Review, Volume V, Number 293


About this Author

Connie Lahn, Barnes Thornburg Law Firm, Minneapolis, Corporate and Litigation Law Attorney

Connie A. Lahn is the managing partner of the Minneapolis office of Barnes & Thornburg. She is a member of the Finance, Insolvency and Restructuring Department and co-chairs the Asset Revitalization Practice Group. Ms. Lahn is also the co-chair of the firm’s Special Servicer Team. She also serves on the firm's diversity and inclusion committee. Ms. Lahn focuses her practice on bankruptcy law, workouts, equipment leasing issues, foreclosures, real estate remedies, commercial mortgage-backed securities defaults, and related commercial litigation. Additionally, she...

Clifford G. Maine, Barnes Thornburg Law Firm, Grand Rapids, Corporate Law Attorney

Clifford G. Maine is chairman of the firm’s Aviation Law Group. Mr. Maine's practice encompasses a wide variety of aviation law practice areas. He serves as general counsel to numerous aviation organizations, including the Southwest Michigan Regional Airport Authority.

Mr. Maine’s aviation clients include some of the largest corporate flight departments in the world. He has structured numerous aviation transactions, including domestic and foreign-based aircraft purchase and sale transactions, like-kind exchanges, timeshare agreements, interchange agreements, joint and fractional ownership agreements, personal and executive use policies, FAA registrations, Capetown International Registry, and aircraft leasing transactions. Mr. Maine also provides legal counsel on tax-related aviation issues including federal excise tax planning, state sales and use tax planning, and depreciation planning.

In addition to his transactional practice, Mr. Maine regularly represents clients in complex aviation lawsuits and frequently advises on aviation insurance coverage matters, warranty matters, ongoing service requirements, and regulatory requirements.

He is a founding member and Chair of the Tax Committee of the National Business Aircraft Association and serves on the Board of Directors of the Michigan Business Aircraft Association. Mr. Maine also serves on the State Bar of Michigan Aviation Section (a section of the bar in which he acted as a founding member and past chairperson).

Kenneth D. Suzan, Barnes Thornburg Law Firm, Minneapolis, Intellectual Property and Litigation Law Attorney
Of Counsel

Kenneth D. Suzan is of counsel in Barnes & Thornburg LLP's Minneapolis, Minnesota office and is a member of the firm's Intellectual Property Department.

Mr. Suzan has experience in the areas of trademark law, copyright law, Internet law, social media law, domain names, and service mark matters. He has counseled his clients on a variety of issues ranging from the inception of a trademark to ultimate registration, licensing and enforcement. Mr. Suzan counsels and assists wearable technology companies to protect brand names through trademark,...