FAA Proposes $1.9 Million Civil Penalty Against SkyPan International for Allegedly Unauthorized Unmanned Aircraft Operations

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.


Views: 1984

Comment by John Church on October 6, 2015 at 7:32am

Not abiding by a regulation is illegal? Why is it called a regulation and not a law? Listen, obviously regulations and guidance are a good idea, but unfortunately Huerta's comments are a good reason folk don't take the FAA seriously.

Comment by Thomas J Coyle III on October 6, 2015 at 7:52am


I believe that an individual or entity can be fined (penalized) for violating a publically published regulation created by a Government Entity (FAA) which has been empowered by Congress to regulate the NAS?



Comment by Nikola Rabchevsky on October 6, 2015 at 7:59am

Not equipped with a two-way radio.  Nnnnnkaaay.

Comment by John Dennings on October 6, 2015 at 8:10am

"the largest civil penalty the FAA has proposed against a UAS operator" ...

Largest as in second one ever. The other one was $10,000 against Pirker, ultimately settled at $1,000 after FAA lost first round in court, appealed to NTSB, and Pirker decided  to settle.

Looking forward to this one in court, although I would have preferred that the FAA actually work on, oh ...  regulations ...

Comment by David Drysdale on October 6, 2015 at 9:57am

I am willing to bet statistically the people getting sued by the FAA were more likely to kill, injure or damage people or property driving to work than what they are getting fined for.  I don't buy that  drones are dangerous based on past history, current statistics or even plausibility. Where is the evidence, I just se speculation and fear of what is new? But sadly in this day and age that is all that is needed, good think we have solved all the real problems.

Comment by John Dennings on October 6, 2015 at 11:59am

@Thomas: Yes and no.

Yes: The FAA has been empowered by Congress to regulate the NAS

No: There's no publically published regulation that was violated, because there (still) is no applicable regulation applicable to SUAS. No applicable FAR apply, unless you believe that such regulations pertaining to full size aircraft, like "No flight *under* 500'", "seat belts required", etc ... are applicable to SUAS. There is  also zero language in FAA regulations  distinguishing commercial from recreational SUAS, so if there were applicable regulations (there isn't) they would apply to all UAVs including anything we fly.  See also www.kramerlevin.com/files/upload/FAA-v-Pirker.pdf

Comment by John Dennings on October 6, 2015 at 12:14pm

PS: "A huge blank space" ... when it came to listing what regulations were broken  ...

Comment by Tony Kenward on October 6, 2015 at 3:14pm

The company is very clearly a regulated entity by regulatory definition.

check out their website:  http://skypanintl.com/

John, as for "no publically (sic) published regulation that was violated", . . . I assume you are not a Bar-certified lawyer?  Well, neither am I, but . . . 


Comment by John Arne Birkeland on October 6, 2015 at 3:25pm

Of those, 43 flew in the highly restricted New York Class B airspace.

This is the key point of this case. Arguing for or against UAS regulations and mandate, is beside the point here.

Normally I'm against FAA policies in general, but they seem to have a real case here.

Comment by Tony Kenward on October 6, 2015 at 3:59pm

I surfed around their website.  If I flew my R/C aircraft in those locations, at those heights, would you consider me a good citizen of the drone community?  I think not.

They had no clearances, no exemptions, and were charging clients fees for doing it.

Makes it unfair for you and me.  IMHO

David's comment is accurate. . . there is no evidence of an unsafe condition.  What we do have is an uneducated public that sees a drone flying over NYC, and they clamor for the government to do something about you and I flying over the park on Sunday.  

Cars are dangerous, yes.  That is why we license all drivers after required training and testing;  we certify cars have the proper safety standards when they are built, and are maintained properly by inspecting them every year.

What are we telling the unwashed public we are doing to police ourselves and our 'drones'? . . . 


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