Licensed Drone Operator Fined $1.9M For Airspace Violations

Licensed Drone Operator Fined $1.9M For Airspace Violations

by DeVore Design, October 6, 2015

A Chicago based aerial photographer has been fined $1.9M by the FAA for violating class B airspace in Chicago and New York.  These violations occurred in spite of the operators FAA 333 exemption and in spite of being operated by private pilots.  Class B airspace is the airspace surrounding the nations busiest airports, and has strict equipment and safety requirements.  Drone operators must be aware of airspace restrictions, especially in the vicinity of major airports.  Sectional charts are necessary to see the designated airspace, and they can be easily viewed online through AirNav.com.

All drone operators must be aware of airspace restrictions and abide by published regulations.  Florida has 3 airports with Class B airspace; Orlando, Tampa and Miami.  All operations within a class B airspace are prohibited without a registered aircraft with a transponder, among other requirements.  Orlando has the largest and most restricted class B airspace, in terms of distance from the airport and altitude.

For the complete list of Class B airports click here.

Click Here to see Orlando International Airport sectional chart.
(Class B Airspace 5 NM (5.75 Miles) From Airport – Surface to 10,000 Feet)
(Class B Airspace 14 NM From Airport – 900 Feet to 10,000 Feet)

Click Here to see Miami International Airport sectional chart.
(Class B Airspace 6 NM (6.90 Miles) From Airport – Surface to 10,000 Feet)
(Class B Airspace 10 NM From Airport – 1,200 Feet to 10,000 Feet)

Click Here to see Tampa International Airport sectional chart.
(Class B Airspace 5 NM (5.75 Miles) From Airport – Surface to 10,000 Feet)
(Class B Airspace 10 NM From Airport – 1,500 Feet to 7,000 Feet)

Click Here for an FAA guide on reading sectional charts.

Click Here for a link to the actual violation letter.

Click Here for a link to SkyPan’s FAA 333 Exemption.

Here is the complete text of the FAA press release:

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.