Flying your drone around for fun might not seem like a big deal, especially since they can be bought over the counter without a certified pilots licence. However, this is not the case for one drone owner who just received a R2.5 million fine [$182,000] from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
The drone owner, who remains anonymous, will be forced to pay over R2 million in fines accumulated over the last year. According to reports from sUAS News, the massive fine is made up of at least 26 different incidents in which the drone owner flew around the Philadelphia area from December 2019 to August 2020.
It was during these flights that the culprit not only violated multiple regulations, but he did so at the same time during each flight.
According to Aviation attorney Jonathan Rupprecht, who was granted access to a copy of the penalty letter, the FAA had warned the pilot multiple times about the regulations he was breaking.
According to the penalty letter, “On or about October 22, 2019, the FAA sent you a Warning Letter regarding a previous flight involving a sUAS that was allegedly operated in violation of the Federal Aviation Regulations.” The letter then goes on to state, “On or about November 4, 2019 and November 6, 2019, the FAA provided you with counseling and education regarding requirements for safe operations of a sUAS under the Federal Aviation Regulations.”
Despite receiving multiple letters from the FAA, the drone owner decided to simply ignore those warnings and continued to fly the drone.
The FAA had finally reached boiling point when the drone owner started posting videos of his illegal flights to YouTube. Along with the raw footage captured by the drone, the person also posted screenshots of the ground control station he used to control the drone, which showed information like altitude, the drone’s distance from the pilot, the drone’s location on a map, and the direction of flight. Thanks to these posts, the FAA were able to determine the drone was flown at night, in bad weather, over people, and beyond the pilot’s line of sight.
With these videos and the data from the ground control station, the FAA had enough information to hit the pilot with this colossal fine.
It remains unclear if the pilot will be required to the fine in full, or if the two parties could reach some kind of settlement or agreement that could reduce the overall amount.