Drone Operators Faces $1.9 Million FAA Fine For Aerial Photography

Chicago based drone operator SkyPan International is facing fines of $1.9 million for continued abuse of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rules by using drones to take aerial photos over New York and Chicago, two of the USA’s most congested and restricted airspaces.

FAA administrator Michael Huerta says that the size of the fine reflected SkyPan’s repeated violations. “Clearly this was not inadvertent, someone making a mistake,” says Huerta. “What we saw here was a pattern of disregard for FAA rules.” The flights took place between March 21, 2012 and Dec. 15, 2014.

The FAA is alleging SkyPan International, conducted 65 flights in restricted airspace over New York and Chicago, with 43 of the flights over New York, without any clearance from air traffic controllers.The drones which were used to take aerial photographs, were not equipped with transponders, altitude reporting equipment or two way radios.

The FAA further alleges that on all 65 flights over Chicago and New York, the drones lacked effective registration and airworthiness certificates.

Huerta says the FAA wants to send a clear message to drone operators “to make sure everyone understands there are ways to safely operate unmanned aircraft, it is important that you follow those rules and if you don’t follow those rules we will take enforcement action.”

“Flying unmanned aircraft in violation of the Federal Aviation Regulations is illegal and can be dangerous. We have the safest airspace in the world, and everyone who uses it must understand and observe our comprehensive set of rules and regulations.” says Huerta.

SkyPan has 30 days to respond to the FAA charges. A company spokesman says they are still reviewing an FAA email notifying them and would not comment until this had been completed and legal advice had been sought.

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