FAA Slaps Biggest Fine Yet on Drone Company for Flying Over Busy Cities

To be fair, though, it’s a quite a break from the originally-proposed fine of $1.9 million.

byAaron Brown|
FAA Slaps Biggest Fine Yet on Drone Company for Flying Over Busy Cities

The Federal Aviation Administration announced Tuesday that it will fine a drone photography company the largest civil penalty the agency has ever levied against an unmanned aircraft operator.

The $200,000 fine was issued to Chicago-based drone company SkyPan International following cases from the agency that claimed the company violated airspace laws between 2012 and 2014 by flying drones in heavily trafficked airspace over New York City and Chicago. The fine will be paid over the next three years.

While the six-figure sum may be the largest of its kind so far, it's far less than the FAA's original threat. When the penalty was initiated in 2015, the agency initially pushed for a $1.9 million fine. 

As part of the terms of the company's agreement with the FAA, SkyPan will issue three public service announcements in the next year to help the government convince other drone users to not break federal laws.

Along with the fine and community outreach efforts, SkyPan also agreed to pay an additional $150,000 if it violates federal aviation laws within the next year, and the same amount if it further breaks the rules of the settlement agreement.

In a press release, SkyPan made clear that the agreement is by no means an admission of guilt—SkyPan just wanted to "resolve this matter without any further expense or delay of business." As part of the agreement, the FAA did not rule that the company actually broke any laws.

"For 28 years, SkyPan has offered innovative aerial robotic systems that serve the needs of the construction and real estate industries while adhering to the highest standards of safety and efficiency in its operation of those systems," the company wrote in a press release. "SkyPan continues to strive to maintain the utmost levels of safety, security, and privacy protection in its operations."