FAA Proposes a Record Fine Against 'Reckless' Drone Operator

FAA Proposes a Record Fine Against 'Reckless' Drone Operator

In a move that's sure to stir the pot of an already hot-button topic, the Federal Aviation Administration proposed a record $1.9 million fine against a drone company for operating in a "careless or reckless manner so as to endanger lives or property."SkyPan International, a Chicago-based aerial photography service, has been accused of conducting 65 unauthorized drone flights over New York and Chicago between March 2012 and December 2014, of which 43 were within restricted New York airspace. The FAA alleges the drones used in these flights were flown without air traffic control clearance, transponders (which assign a unique identifier to an aircraft and provide basic information about it), two-way radio communication equipment, or altitude-reporting capabilities, rendering them essentially invisible in the densely populated and highly restricted New York airspace. Furthermore, the FAA has alleged that these drones were not certified airworthy. 

The $1.9 million fine associated with the enforcement, which the company has 30 days to respond to, is the largest such fine associated with drone usage in history and comes just before a House of Representatives subcommittee will meet on Wednesday to discuss aviation law and safety as we enter a period in which drones are becoming increasingly popular and prevalent. Tuesday's proposed fine is more than 100 times the previous largest proposed fine, which was a $18,700 proposal, levied against Xizmo Media. 

With the issue of the increasing popularity of drones meeting with issues of safety involving aircraft, the FAA seems to have drawn a very clear line in the sand. Do you feel Tuesday's fine was excessive or appropriate? Let us know in the comments. 

[via The Washington Post]

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Since these drones don't have a Type Certificate, nor are they built to 14CFR21, 23, 25, 26, 27, 29, or 31 and don't operate under 14CFR91, 121 or 135, I wonder where the FAA thinks they can require two-way radios, transponders or altitude reporting equipment. Now having said that, STAY AWAY from AIRPORTS!!

Heaps of lawyers, that's how.

Kyle Jackson's picture

The FAA regulates all aviation activities (in the USA). The CFRs you cited are only part of the spectrum, and they always reserve the capacity to include additional categories. Since drones are a relatively new beast that regulators are trying to come to grips with, the FAA started by implementing specific airworthiness requirements and operational rules in the past year or so to govern drones and their operation for commercial purposes (some of which include a Special Airworthiness Certificate in the Restricted category, under CFR 21). There is detailed information on these requirements available on the FAA website here http://www.faa.gov/uas/.
I definitely echo "stay away from airports"!! I'm an aircraft accident investigator here in Canada. So far (knock on wood) I believe we've yet to have a plane brought down by a drone, however the number of close calls is frightening. Cases like drones flying right through the middle of the final landing approach paths at major airports (we've had a number of these in the Vancouver area). (They almost make one wonder if it's being done deliberately, but that's another topic!)

I believe there's already video footage out there of a drone colliding with an aircraft. Eventually, one will bring down an aircraft. Hopefully, the fine will at least make people think twice about what they're doing and where. FAA issued a no drone flight area for San Francisco Fleet Week this weekend. Can't imagine what would happen should a drone collide with an air show performer.

Ansel Spear's picture

Er, I'll supply you with 31 words, ellipsis and a question mark. Your task is to arrange them in any order that you wish. We'll then see whether it makes any sense.

only if guns would get that much scrutiny and attention.