Drone-Photography Company Reaches Settlement with FAA

Aerial-photography company SkyPan has reached a settlement with the FAA, which alleged SkyPan had violated its drone-use regulations. Wikimedia Commons/Don McCullough

An aerial-photography company that last year found itself under scrutiny by the FAA over its use of drones has agreed to pay a hefty fine of $200,000.

Chicago-based SkyPan International, which uses drones to photograph hotels and other property for clients in Chicago and New York City, announced it had reached a settlement with the agency on Tuesday.

In October 2015, the FAA proposed a $1.9 million civil penalty against SkyPan for drone use that allegedly violated its regulations from 2012 through 2014. It’s the largest fine of its kind, according to the FAA.

The FAA alleged SkyPan violated airspace regulations and UAS operating rules by flying its drones in congested airspace without air traffic control clearance, a two-way radio, transponder or altitude-reporting equipment.

SkyPan, which didn't admit fault in its statement but expressed enthusiasm for working with the FAA in the future, said the 65 flights in question occurred two years before the FAA's Part 107 rules went into effect in August 2016.

“SkyPan has never had an accident, and SkyPan has never compromised citizens’ privacy or security,” the aerial-photography company said in its statement.

Part of SkyPan’s settlement agreement is to work with the FAA on public outreach over the next year to “encourage drone operators to learn and comply with UAS regulations,” according to the FAA.

SkyPan faces an additional $150,000 fine if it violates FAA regulations during the next year, and another $150,000 if it doesn’t uphold its end of the settlement agreement.


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