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SKY HIGH

The FAA dropped a $1.9 million fine on a drone company for dozens of unauthorized flights

AP Photo/Alex Brandon
Unfriendly skies.
  • Mike Murphy
By Mike Murphy

Technology editor

This article is more than 2 years old.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced today (Oct. 6) it was fining aerial photography company SkyPan $1.9 million for unauthorized flights by its drones over Chicago and New York City between 2012 and 2014.

According to the release, SkyPan flew 65 flights over the two cities, of which the FAA says 43 were in “the highly restricted New York Class B airspace.” This is generally the airspace within 10,000 feet of busy airports. “These operations were illegal and not without risk,” the agency said in its its statement.

The FAA is currently in the process of figuring out how to properly incorporate drones into the US airspace—last week it missed its congressionally mandated deadline to have regulations in place. SkyPan uses drones to film from the sky for real estate clients to create “interactive 360” views of properties, and has an FAA Section 333 exemption. This means that, although the FAA hasn’t put rules in place yet, it has provided some clearances for commercial drone companies to fly in US airspace. As of July, there were over 900 exemptions handed out.

SkyPan has 30 days to respond to the FAA. The company was not immediately available for comment.

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