The FAA announced the largest civil penalty to date proposed against a drone operator for violating airspace restrictions. The 1.9 million dollar proposed fine is aimed against SkyPan International, Inc. (SkyPan) of Chicago, provider of proprietary RPV “Remote Piloted Vehicles” for the production of high end aerial and panoramic photography.
The FAA alleges that the company flew 65 unauthorized drone flights over various locations in New York City and Chicago between March of 2012 and December of 2014, 43 of these in the highly congested and 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 claims that SkyPan operated flights in the New York Class B airspace without receiving prior air traffic control clearance. Additionally, the FAA alleges that SkyPan’s drone was not equipped with the required two-way radio, transponder, and altitude-reporting equipment.
“The FAA further alleges that on all 65 flights, the aircraft lacked an airworthiness certificate and effective registration, and SkyPan did not have a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization for the operations,” states the FAA press release. The FAA website shows that the Section 333 exemption was granted to SkyPan in April 2015.
Skypan International will have 30 days to respond to the complaint. The company did not have an official statement on the proposed fine when contacted this morning, saying that they had not had time to review the documents. The company spokesperson indicated that the proposed fine came as a complete surprise to company officials.
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
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