The Federal Aviation Administration on Tuesday announced its largest fine ever against a drone operator, showing that the agency is not afraid to crack down on the booming commercial drone industry.
The agency plans to fine SkyPan International, an aerial-photography company, $1.9 million for conducting 65 unauthorized flights in New York City and Chicago between 2012 and 2014. The flights in congested airspace threatened lives and property, the FAA alleged.
The FAA has issued dozens of waivers in recent months to allow Hollywood studios and other companies to operate drones, but for most cases, there is a blanket federal ban on the commercial use of drones. SkyPan did obtain a waiver in April 2015, but all of the alleged unauthorized flights occurred before that date.
“Flying unmanned aircraft in violation of the Federal Aviation Regulations is illegal and can be dangerous,” FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said 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.”
In 2012, Congress directed the FAA to develop regulations to allow for commercial drones in U.S. airspace by September 30 of this year. The FAA, which is still working on the new rules, missed the deadline, meaning that its ban is still in place. People can fly a small drone for recreational purposes as long as they follow rules, like keeping it within sight and flying no higher than 400 feet.