FAA Seeks $1.9M Penalty Against SkyPan for Unauthorized UAS Operations

October 6, 2015  - By
Image: GPS World

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has announced the largest civil penalty the FAA has proposed against a UAS operator for endangering the safety of the national 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 operations in some of the 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 for aerial photography. Of those, 43 flew in 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.”

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 operated the aircraft in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger lives or property, the FAA alleges.

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

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3 Comments on "FAA Seeks $1.9M Penalty Against SkyPan for Unauthorized UAS Operations"

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  1. William K. says:

    It would be interesting to know the altitude of those flights, since regular aviation has very clearly defined altitude restrictions that are probably well above the heights that the UAVs reached. But even the mention of such a large fine is certain to get everybodie’s attention.

    • LaRuelives says:

      @William: “Regular aviation”? Helicopters routinely fly at 500AGL, sometimes less if required to avoid fixed wing traffic when arriving or departing at an airport; or when transitioning busy airspace (ex. LAX coastal transition is at 150AGL). If one of those UAVs clips our blades, we die. MY life is at risk, even if fixed wingers get to enjoy the safety of higher altitudes. Did you see the videos of the UAV operating within 50 feet of the rotor disk for both Seattle KING5 and KIRO news helicopter last March? Altitude for the UAV was estimated at 1500 feet. That’s not exceptionally low.