New Workshop! Lighting 3 | Advanced Off Camera Flash

Current Events

Company Faces $1.9 Million Dollar Fine From FAA For Unauthorized Drone Use

By Hanssie on October 7th 2015

There’s no doubt that aerial photography has been quite popular in the last few years, giving us soaring views of the world we live in, from a different (and often awe-inducing) vantage point. But aerial photography and drone usage had been largely unregulated until earlier this year when the FAA finally proposed a number of rules to help control drone usage. Though not complete nor perfect, it’s a start. States are also trying to provide even more restricted use in an effort to protect its citizens and their privacy rights.



Unauthorized drone usage has interfered with recent firefighting efforts, have endangered nature and wildlife at National Parks, and have come dangerously close to commercial airlines, threatening the safety of the passengers on board. Now, the FAA is sending a message to drone operators that those who don’t follow its regulations may face a hefty penalty.

The FAA levied a whopping $1.9 million dollar fine against SkyPan International, a company that reportedly conducted 65 flights over congested (and some of the most restrictive) airspace over New York and Chicago between March 21, 2012, and Dec. 15, 2014.

SkyPan’s Remote Piloted Vehicles (RPV), which shoots 360-degree panoramas and gives a “bird’s eye view” of these cities for urban developers, allegedly did not have authorization or air traffic control clearance for these flights. The FAA press release further alleges that SkyPan’s drones did not have an airworthiness certificate or effective registration, nor a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization for the flights. The aerial vehicles also did not possess two-way radios, transponders, and altitude reporting equipment.

SkyPan, which had yet to officially comment, pending review of the documents, has 30-days to respond to the complaint, though some reports state that SkyPlan was completely surprised and thinks that the proposed fine is “ridiculous and unfair.”

What do you think?

[Via KALW]

This site contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links, however, this does not impact accuracy or integrity of our content.

Hanssie is a Southern California-based writer and sometimes portrait and wedding photographer. In her free time, she homeschools, works out, rescues dogs and works in marketing for SLR Lounge. She also blogs about her adventures and about fitness when she’s not sick of writing so much. Check out her work and her blog at Follow her on Instagram

Q&A Discussions

Please or register to post a comment.

  1. Stan Rogers

    They were warned a number of times and were flying heavy drones (not Phantoms or anything smallish, lightish and plasticky like that) in Class B airspace (where take-off and landing paths happen and FOD damage — like an engine ingesting a large machine of some sort that wasn’t supposed to be there — is likely to result in unrecoverable conditions and a crash). They didn’t inform air traffic control of where the drones were going to be, and there was no way to tell them to get the **** out of the way RIGHT NOW in case of a PAN or MAYDAY — or even if they’d strayed into somebody’s planned flight path. Did I mention that they were warned more than once?

    It would seem that their attitude to the warnings was “what are they going to do, fine us?” (Typical start-up “DISRUPT ALL THE THINGS!!!”) The $1.9M number is the only surprise to them, and that’s the cheap way out; they can choose to pay the fine (or negotiate payment) and that’s the end of it, or they can go into federal court with a laundry list of charges that may also result in imprisonment. (The FAA can’t actually levy a fine that size, they can only propose it as an alternative to federal prosecution.)

    Idiots like that can cost a lot of lives. I have no sympathy for them.

    | |
    • Dustin Baugh

      If they’re repeat offenders the fine likely consists of all the times they violated the rules.

      | |