In a landmark move, the FAA has proposed nearly $2 million dollars in fines for SkyPan International, Incorporated. The FAA claims that the company flew in restricted airspace 65 times “in highly congested airspace over New York City and Chicago.”
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has proposed the largest civil penalty the agency has ever proposed against an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) operator for endangering the safety of United States airspace. UAS are more commonly referred to as drones.
The record $1.9 million penalty has been proposed against SkyPan International, Inc. The FAA alleges that the company conducted 65 unauthorized aerial photography flights in highly congested airspace over New York City and Chicago, violating airspace regulations and various operating rules. The FAA says that these “careless and reckless” operations, which allegedly occurred between March 21, 2012 and December 15, 2014, were illegal, risky, and endangered lives and property.
The agency says that 43 of the illegal flights flew into the highly restricted New York Class B airspace.
I say landmark move, because prior to this fine, the highest proposed fine to date was $18,700. (That’s more than a marginal increase.)
The previous largest fine for drone operations was $18,700 against Xizmo Media, a New York video production company, the FAA said.
So why is the fine so high? (Especially when compared to historical fines.)
FAA administrator Michael Huerta told NPR that the size of the fine — the largest the FAA has ever proposed against a drone operator — was a result of the company’s repeated violations. “Clearly this was not inadvertent, someone making a mistake,” Huerta said. “What we saw here was a pattern of disregard for FAA rules.”
Michael Huerta, FAA Administrator continued his comments in a press release that came directly from the FAA.
“Flying unmanned aircraft in violation of the Federal Aviation Regulations is illegal and can be dangerous,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “We have the safest airspace in the world, and everyone who uses it must understand and observe our comprehensive set of rules and regulations.”
On the SkyPan side of things, we’ve had a very limited response.
Reached by CBS News correspondent Kris Van Kleave for comment, SkyPan spokesman Karl Brewick said “he’s had better days.” He declined further comment, saying the company has not had a chance to review the civil filing, and cannot comment until they have.
SkyPan has 30 days after receiving the FAA enforcement letter to respond, so I expect this story to develop further. It is important to mention that SkyPan has been on the FAA’s radar for sometime now. You can find evidence of this in July.
SkyPan, an aerial photography company who has been hired by some real estate agencies, has also received subpoenas from the FAA last year, according to Mark Segal, SkyPan’s owner.
I believe this story really emphasizes the need for not only Section 333 Exemptions, but also the need for education. SkyPan Intl. has a Section 333 Exemption, but they didn’t know how to or chose not to use it properly. Do you have a Section 333 Exemption for your commercial operation? Do you understand how when you need Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA)? Do you know how to get one when you need it?
If you are drone operator, then please, get the education you need at a reputable drone college. A drone college like Drone Universities will teach more than just the flight skills you need to operate your drone safely. At Drone Universities you also learn the laws and regulations that govern safe and legal drone use.
If you’d like to read more, this story is getting good coverage. Here are a few related reading links that you may find interesting:
- FAA Levels Record $1.9 Million Civil Penalty On Drone Operator SkyPan
- Drone company could face $1.9 million FAA fine
- FAA seeks record $1.9 million fine from drone company SkyPan
About SkyPan International, Inc.
Being a market leader in aerial visual solutions for over 27 years, we established an excellent reputation and an extensive client list. What sets us apart from our competition is that we are committed to provide our clients with the highest possible image quality. Our team includes seasoned experts from every field of piloting, robotic engineering, aerial photography and postdigital wizardry.
We are happy to consult with you and advise what the possibilities are and for whatapplications our photography can be used for. Most clients first use our images for investor presentations, entitlement packages, site positioning, VR/3D animations, price determination studies and architectural design planning. Sales/marketing are usually the final departments using SkyPan panoramic photography.