The U.S. Government Is Serious About Illegal Drone Activity

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The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced the largest civil penalty the FAA has proposed against a UAS operator for endangering the safety of our airspace.

The FAA proposes a $1.9 million civil penalty against SkyPan International, Inc. of Chicago. Between March 21, 2012, and Dec. 15, 2014, SkyPan conducted 65 unauthorized drone operations in some of our most congested airspace and heavily populated cities, violating airspace regulations and various operating rules, the FAA alleges. These operations were illegal and not without risk.

The FAA alleges that the company conducted 65 unauthorized commercial UAS flights over various locations in New York City and Chicago between March 21, 2012 and Dec. 15, 2014. The flights involved aerial photography. Of those, 43 flew in the highly restricted New York Class B airspace.




SkyPan operated the 43 flights in the New York Class B airspace without receiving an air traffic control clearance to access it, the FAA alleges. Additionally, the agency alleges 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 aircraft lacked an airworthiness certificate and effective registration, and SkyPan 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.

Hobbyists are allowed to fly drones as long as they stay 5 miles away from an airport and fly no higher than 400 feet. The FAA has granted over 1,700 permits to commercial operators with similar restrictions.

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Chris Clarke
Chris Clarke
Chris is an active pilot who love cars, airplanes and motorcycles.
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