No One Has Been Prosecuted For Unlicensed Commercial Drone Operations
” For all its talk about how flying a drone for commercial purposes without its permission is illegal, the Federal Aviation Administration has never fined a drone company simply for flying a drone for money, according to documents obtained by Motherboard using the Freedom of Information Act.
Over the last several years, the FAA has repeatedly said that operating a drone business is illegal until it enacts specific drone guidelines. In the meantime, it has begun issuing what are known as “Section 333 exemption,” which allows companies to fly with permission under strict guidelines. The FAA has given out 5,292 of these waivers and has a massive backlog of them to get through still.
After seeing a list of what the FAA says are all of the drone-related fines it has ever given out, you wonder why anyone who has a drone business would ever bother getting a 333 exemption.
In October, FAA Deputy Administrator Michael Whitaker told Congress that the FAA had issued 20 civil penalties to drone operators and said the number of companies flying illegally is “too big to track.”
According to the documents I obtained, the FAA fined a pilot named Raphael Pirker $10,000 for flying recklessly at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville (this was a famous case that dragged out for more than a year), a company called Xizmo Media Productions $18,700 (later reduced to $5,000), and a company called SkyPan $1.9 million.
It also revoked a commercial pilot’s manned aircraft license for a drone flight it said was reckless at Brooklyn’s Coney Island. Besides that, every other fine has been levied against hobbyists.”