FAA Proposes Record $1.9 Million Penalty against Drone Operator SkyPan International

FAA Proposes Record $1.9 Million Penalty against Drone Operator SkyPan International
Image: Pixabay
October 6, 2015

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has announced 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.

"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."

The FAA says that SkyPan operated the 43 flights in the New York Class B airspace without receiving an air traffic control clearance to access it. Additionally, the agency alleges that the aircraft was not equipped with a two-way radio, transponder, and altitude-reporting equipment.

The FAA further alleges that on all 65 flights, the SkyPan aircraft lacked an airworthiness certificate and effective registration, and did not have a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization for the operations.

SkyPan has 30 days after receiving the FAA's enforcement letter to respond to the agency.