FAA Drone Regulations Get Real: UAV Photo Company Fined $1.9 Million

In the battle for airspace, lawyers hold the firepower. Garcia Marengo

The Federal Aviation Administration announced Tuesday it will go after Chicago-based photography company SkyPan International with a $1.9 million fine for illegally flying drones in restricted airspace. Between 2012 and 2014, the FAA says that SkyPan, which counts the Trump Organization and Ritz Carlton among its clients, flew drones 65 times over Chicago and New York City without proper authorization.

These flights included Class B airspace, the region near airports that stretches up to about 10,000 feet above sea level. Per the FAA announcement:

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.

Drones flying near airports are under increasing scrutiny in the States as well as overseas.

The FAA in 2015 is the Recording Industry Association of America in the early ‘00s: They see heads that need to roll, publicly, and the best way to do that is with obscenely expensive fines or lawsuits. The difference being that Napster’s MP3s couldn’t recklessly endanger anyone — but, according to the FAA, SkyPan’s drones can.