In case you were wondering, the answer is “Yes,” the FAA means business when it comes to drone operators violating airspace regulations. This unfortunate lesson comes at the hefty cost of $200,000 for one Chicago-based company.

The FAA originally came after Chicago-based SkyPan International in October of 2015, proposing a mammoth fine of $1.9 million—the highest civil penalty ever proposed—for endangering airspace safety. According to the FAA, SkyPan embarked on 65 unauthorized drone photography flights between March 2012 and December 2014 in some of the country’s most congested airspace… and they would have to pay for these transgressions.

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The case was finally settled yesterday, and strange as it might sound, the $200,000 fine SkyPan agreed to pay must be music to the drone operator’s ears (and wallets). In a statement, the FAA outlined the terms of the settlement: SkyPan will pay a $200,000 civil fine, an additional $150,000 if they violate FAA regulations in the next year, and $150,000 more if it fails to comply with the terms of the settlement agreement.

SkyPan will also work with the FAA to release three public service announcements over the next year, “to support the FAA’s public outreach campaigns that encourage drone operators to learn and comply with UAS regulations.”

In their own statement, SkyPan is quick to point out that the settlement includes no admission or denial of wrongdoing on their end and no official violation in the FAA’s books.

“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,” writes the company. “In exchange [for the penalties SkyPan has agreed to pay], the FAA makes no finding of violation.”

SkyPan goes on to praise the FAA’s new “Rule 107” that regulates drone operation, calling it “a flexible and forward-leaning regulatory framework that balances access, innovation, and safety.” Looks like they’re already working on those PSAs…


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