The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) today announces 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 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.

“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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  • so, in answer to your wacked-out conspiracy theory:

    A fine of this amount will trigger automatic review/appeal.  At that time, as they did to file the civil penalty action, the FAA will "provide any factual evidence then. (the FAA will) Provide factual data showing the breakdown of the fine and how it relates to those documents. That will prove the FAA has utilized them."

    You, I, and the public will be allowed to view the evidence at that time.  I do not have access to the evidence, as you obviously do.

    No matter the outcome of this 'bad player vs FAA story', I am sure that Sean Hannity and Rush will feed you a new windmill monster though.  No evidence will need to convince you of the Evil inherent. . . 

       Vaya con Dios vatos

  • Dwarf space aliens came into my shop and tuned my 550_mm hexacopter while I was sleeping!!

    Now, prove that this is not a fact!!  HAH!!

  • My opinion... What a load of BS.

    No person or property was damaged, yeah they broke some rules, I understand that.

    I would ask the FAA why 1.9 million dollar fine. Why not 2 million or a $100,000 ?

    Seriously stupid.  They are corporate bullies. 

    They should be concentrating on regulations..

    Meh !!

  • Tony - Strange considering you have not provided any factual evidence then. Provide factual data showing the breakdown of the fine and how it relates to those documents. That will prove the FAA has utilized them. That would also disprove anything you claim I have 'imagined'. But my guess is that you actually can't do that...

  • Jeremy - some things are in evidence.  Some things are in your head.  No, I cannot disprove the things you imagine  to exist.

  • Tony - Simply posting FAA documents on whats meant to be done does not prove that the FAA has actually utilized those documents. There has been no proof from the FAA to back up that they actually are using the correct guidelines and fining the correct amounts. Until then its perfectly reasonable to suspect that they are not.

  • Gary, any data?, any evidence?

    If not, you just made all that up.

    non-Fox reality:

  • This won't be the last time we hear such stories. What's the problem with stiff penalties when people violate the rules? Especially with knowledge and such flagrant disregard by a commercial operator. They should also suspend the company's exemption. 

    I applaud the FAA. Their focus is on trying to maintain air safety, as they should. If that means stiff fines and making public examples out of such bad actors, they should act, imo. Even if they lose in court on this case, the public exposure is good. It provides a useful and necessary public warning to other potential violators. 

    This is a bad omen if even exemption holders are acting so irresponsibly. They are a stain on the commercial drone business. 

  • Hi Tony,

    So far the FAA has used no "formula" in any of their actions relating to UAV and everything from local FAA districts making it up on their own to simply basing their actions on what their lawyers at the time tell them they might be able to get away with.

    It may be that such formulae are in common use regarding their more normal manned aircraft operations, but so far relating to UAV they have simply been all over the board, and have definitely often tried to operate by intimidation rather than force of actual law.

    I made no claims of any conspiracy in regards to this and in fact don't really think there is one.

    They have however, so far shown that they intend to force whoever they want to to do things however they think they ought to be done at any given moment by any means available.

    From the look of the filings, clearly this company knew it was in violation of assorted FAA directives and also likely knew they were flying in an unsafe manner.

    For that, surely they should be held accountable, however, the only formula that was applied in coming up with 1.9 million dollars was constructing the most media worthy amount their lawyers could possibly stretch it to and it is designed to intimidate the rest of us with the long sword of the mighty FAA, not achieve equitable justice.

    It is not a conspiracy theory to act like a bully, it is just acting like a bully.

    Best Regards,


  • Gary:  your 2nd 'fact' is errroneous.  The FAA is required to use a formula to levy such fines.  I don't need to comment on ". . . see how we can destroy your lives".  How the agency operates is all available to you, if you want to educate yourselves and relieve yourselves of your conspiracy delusions.  Or, just quit watching FoxNews.

    The FAA is required to follow a 'Compliance and Enforcement' Order.

    The Order requires use of a tiered system of compliance enforcement;  first tier is voluntary compliance.  Second tier is administrative action.  Skypan would not have been levied a calculated fine if they had followed through with the required compliance.

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