Skip to main content

Drone Operator Facing Huge Fines

An unlicensed drone pilot is facing a total of $182,000 in fines for repeated violations of fundamental rules governing drone flights.  The Federal Aviation Administration proposed the fines after issuing three warnings in 2019 for illegal flights in Philadelphia.

The FAA issued a warning letter in October 2019; then the Agency contacted the operator two more times during the month of November to explain exactly how he was violating flight rules.  The pilot ignored offers of what the FAA called “counselling and education.” By August of 2020, the FAA tallied up 26 violations of Part 107 regulations ranging from flying without a special use authorization for the airspace being used to flying at night, in poor visibility and too close to buildings.

The pilot’s actions made it easy for investigators, who didn’t have to go any further than YouTube to build their case.  The pilot posted numerous in-flight videos, even including screen shots of the ground control station that displays altitude, the drone’s distance from the pilot, its heading and its position. The videos showed the drone flying over downtown Philadelphia with cars and people below.  

The drone pilot can appeal the fines to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s or the National Transportation Safety Board’s administrative law judges.