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Drone Op Gets $1.9 Million Fine Reduced to $200,000

A SkyPan still shot of Central Park.

A SkyPan still shot of Central Park. WASHINGTON– The Federal Aviation Administration today announced a comprehensive settlement agreement with SkyPan International, Inc., of Chicago. The agreement resolves enforcement cases that alleged the company operated unmanned aircraft in congested airspace over New York City and Chicago, and violated airspace regulations and aircraft operating rules.

Under the terms of the agreement, SkyPan will pay a $200,000 civil penalty. The company also agrees to pay an additional $150,000 if it violates Federal Aviation Regulations in the next year, and $150,000 more if it fails to comply with the terms of the settlement agreement.

SkyPan also agrees to work with the FAA to release three public service announcements in the next 12 months to support the FAA’s public outreach campaigns that encourage drone operators to learn and comply with UAS regulations.

The agreement settles enforcement cases involving a $1.9 million civil penalty that the FAA proposed against SkyPan International, Inc. of Chicago in October 2015. It was the largest civil penalty the agency has proposed against a UAS operator. The FAA alleged that between March 21, 2012, and Dec. 15, 2014, SkyPan conducted 65 unauthorized operations “ over various locations in New York City and Chicago,” 43 of which were said to be over “highly restricted New York Class B airspace.” The FAA also said SkyPan’s drones lacked two-way radios, transponders and altitude-reporting equipment, as well as airworthiness certifications and registration, or waivers for operation.

Operational waivers did not go into effect until September of 2014, and the FAA rules governing drones did not go into effect until August, 2016, SkyPan noted in a statement provided to TV Technology:

“SkyPan’s flights were conducted two years before the FAA’s first rule for commercial UAS operations, commonly referred to as Part 107, went into effect in August 2016, and all but a few were conducted before the FAA began to issue exemptions to authorize commercial UAS operations in September 2014 under the Section 333 process. SkyPan has never had an accident, and SkyPan has never compromised citizens’ privacy or security. SkyPan obtained a section 333 Exemption in 2015.

“While neither admitting nor contesting the allegations that these commercial operations were contrary to FAA regulations, SkyPan wishes to resolve this matter without any further expense or delay of business. Accordingly, it has entered into three-year agreement with the FAA in which SkyPan will pay a civil fine over a period of three years and pay an additional civil fine in the event Skypan violates any aviation regulation during the next year and pay a civil fine in the event it violates the terms of the agreement. In exchange, the FAA makes no finding of violation.”