Company Fined $200,000 for Flying Drones Over New York City and Chicago

Jan 20, 2017

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Though drone technology has gotten a lot of media attention in the past couple of years, pilotless aircraft are hardly a new invention, with some of the earliest models dating back about 100 years. But as we’ve found new uses for these clever little gadgets — for airline inspections and pizza deliveries, most recently — questions of safety, security and privacy have become of increasing importance. Which means that the FAA has gotten involved and, as aerial photography company SkyPan International just found out the hard way, will take action when proper procedures aren’t followed.

On August 26, 2016, the FAA released a new set of ground rules for commercial drones, which established a very clear-cut set of guidelines regarding how much a drone can weigh, how high and fast they’re allowed to fly, which hours they can operate and what requirements the operator must have. Operators must also register each device before a flight.

Among these rules are restrictions on airspace, one of the regulations SkyPan had reportedly violated. The original claim against the Chicago-based drone operator, which has been in business for nearly 30 years, came in 2015, when the FAA proposed that the company be fined $1.9 million for what it deemed “careless or reckless” drone operations that “endanger[ed] lives or property.” According to The Washington Post, the agency charged that the company had “conducted dozens of unauthorized drone flights over New York and Chicago, two of the nation’s most heavily trafficked airspaces.” According to an article by Digital Trends, 43 of these unauthorized flights ventured into Class B airspace in New York City — highly restricted areas that are usually near airports — though in a statement, SkyPan noted that the flights in question took place two years before the FAA’s rule actually went into effect.

Many states and local municipalities have their own laws governing the use of drones as well, while others are considering legislation, making the FAA’s rule an even more helpful tool in establishing what is and is not possible and how commercial ventures can move forward in innovating new ways to use drone technology. At the same time, the agency is showing it means business; though it’s a far cry from the original amount proposed, the FAA and SkyPan came to a settlement agreement whereby the company will pay a $200,000 civil penalty, plus another $150,000 if it violates FAA regulations again within the next year and another $150,00 if it doesn’t comply with the terms of the settlement. SkyPan will also produce three PSAs to urge other drone operators to learn and comply with the FAA’s drone regulations. Lesson learned!

H/T: Digital Trends

Featured image courtesy of Drew Angerer via Getty Images.

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