The Federal Aviation Authority comes down on hard on illegal drone flights — and now it’s issued its biggest ever fine for the offence, demanding $1.9 million from the aerial photography company SkyPan International.
The FAA claims the the company performed a total of 65 unauthorized commercial drone flights over New York City and Chicago between March 21st 2012 and December 15th 2014. In each case, the FAA alleges that the aircraft that were used lacked the airworthiness certificate and effective registration required for commercial flight.
Of the 65 flights, 43 apparently strayed into New York Class B airspace too, without receiving the air traffic control clearance that’s typically needed for such activity. The FAA also claims that the drones didn’t feature the two-way radio, transponder, or altitude-reporting equipment that craft operating in that airspace are supposed to, either.
All of which is enough for the FAA to level a $1.9 million fine at SkyPan. The company now has 30 days to respond, but it seems that it won’t pay up without a fight. “SkyPan has been conducting aerial photography above private property in urban areas for 27 years in full compliance with published FAA regulations,” explained a representative to the National Journal. “SkyPan is fully insured and proud of its impeccable record of protecting the public’s safety, security and privacy.”
While the FAA points out that “everyone who uses [U.S. airspace] must understand and observe our comprehensive set of rules and regulations,” some may suggest that the rules are murky at best. The FAA handed out its biggest approval of commercial drone use to date last month, for instance, but Google is forced to use legal loopholes to test its own craft.
The FAA, at the demand of Congress, is currently putting together blanket rules that would legalize the use of small drones, but, as Verge points out, they may not be ready until 2017.