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07.07.17 | 9:23 am

Drone hobbyists: Now you can get your $5 back from the FAA

If you ponied up $5 to register your drone with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, you can now apply to get your money back. Turns out that asking model aircraft enthusiasts to give their names and hard-earned money to the FAA for the right to fly a drone violated a 2012 law passed by Congress. According to Recode, back in May a federal court ruled that the FAA's rules requiring non-commercial drones to be registered, which have been in place since 2015, violated the FAA Modernization and Reform Act. Now, a link has appeared on the FAA's website telling law-abiding non-commercial drone operators how to deregister their drone and get their $5 back from the FAA (probably by re-enacting the money-collecting scenes from Better Off Dead).

[Photo: Bidgee via Wikimedia Commons]

05.19.17 | 3:10 pm

Drone hobbyists: Sorry you wasted your time with that FAA registration

A D.C. appeals court struck down the FAA's requirement that hobbyist drone owners register their unmanned aircraft, saying Congress explicitly blocked the agency from regulating "model aircraft" under a 2012 law. "Statutory interpretation does not get much simpler," according to the court's opinion. "The Registration Rule is unlawful as applied to model aircraft." 

The FAA said in a statement that it's "considering our options," and a spokesman declined to comment further on how the ruling could affect drone owners who've already paid to register their aircraft. "That is something I'd be curious to hear from the FAA about, because people have been asking me," says John Taylor, the plaintiff in the case, who explained his suit didn't address refunds or deletion of the FAA's databases since he never registered his own aircraft. "I've been like, I think we should give them a reasonable amount of time to decide that, if they haven't decided that already, but if they don't, I think they'll be getting some phone calls."

01.13.17 | 3:10 pm

As DJI soars, drone industry investment is falling

Yesterday's news that Lily–once a darling of the drone community–had been forced to shut down after being unable to raise enough money to complete production, was just the latest proof that everyone interested in drones is living in DJI's world. Other recent examples are big layoffs at France's Parrot, the failure of 3D Robotics' consumer drone business, and even the inability of GoPro to make a dent with its Karma drone–which was delayed for a year, and then grounded almost immediately after launch due to technical problems.

The general awareness that China's DJI is far and away the industry leader, across a wide range of price points and use cases, may explain why investors are putting less money into drones than they were a year ago. Data provided to Fast Company by Pitchbook shows that although the number of investments made in 2016 was precisely the same as the year before (183), the dollars fell by 21.8%, from $1.47 billion in 2015 to $1.15 billion in 2016. There are surely other factors involved, but it's hard to imagine that DJI's dominance isn't scaring potential competitors away.

[Chart Courtesy of Pitchbook]