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FAA Seeks $1.9 Million Fine from Drone Photography Company

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is seeking the largest civil penalty ever proposed against a UAS (unmanned aircraft system) operator for “endangering the safety of our airspace.”

According to the FAA, between March 21, 2012, and Dec. 15, 2014, Chicago-based SkyPan International, Inc. conducted 65 unauthorized operations in Chicago and New York City’s congested airspace, violating airspace regulations and various operating rules. The flights involved aerial photography.

SkyPan’s clients include Boston Properties, Durst Organization, Eastdil Secured, Silverstein Properties, Vornado and dozens of other well-known real estate firms. Most of their clients use the images for investor presentations, entitlement packages, site positioning, VR/3D animations, price determination studies and architectural design planning.

The FAA claims that SkyPan flew in highly restricted New York Class B airspace without receiving an air traffic control clearance. Additionally, the agency alleges the aircraft was not equipped with a two-way radio, transponder, and altitude-reporting equipment. The FAA also claims that SkyPan lacked an airworthiness certificate and did not have a Certificate of Waiver.

“Flying unmanned aircraft in violation of the Federal Aviation Regulations is illegal and can be dangerous,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, in a statement.  “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’s owners, who declined to comment, have 30 days to respond to the FAA’s allegations.

Propmodo is a global multimedia effort to explore how emerging technologies affect our built environment.

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