Minnesota Man Facing $55K In FAA Fines Over A Single Aerial Photo

He Flew A Drone To Take Photos For A Friend. Now He’s Facing $55K In Government Fines




” Mical Caterina is addicted.

  When the Minnesota man turned 56, he headed to Brainerd International Raceway and raced his Mini Cooper on its road course. With GoPro cameras fastened to the front and back bumpers of his car, he created a video and posted it to YouTube.

  That got the attention of GoPro, which invited him to a seminar where he was given a drone, a Phantom manufactured by the Chinese company DJI. Caterina was instantly hooked.

“ I love to fly this thing,” he told The Daily Signal, referring to his drone. “It comes with some bumps and bruises. My first one was [like a] weed wacker in my backyard. But I got it down to an art. I know how to operate it safely.”

  Caterina’s interest in aerial photography started in August 2012, and he currently uses two DJI drones. An audio engineer by day, he’s since attracted the attention of local real estate agents and event organizers looking to hire him to take aerial photos using his drone.

  A resident of Eden Prairie, Caterina has turned down many offers, insisting he master the skill before charging people for his work.

  But what Caterina has considered a hobby—and an “addictive” one at that—has landed him in trouble with the Federal Aviation Administration, which has levied $55,000 in fines against him for violating five aviation regulations, all of which he disputes.

  Caterina’s months long battle with the government underscores the frustrations drone hobbyists and commercial users have with the FAA as the agency has slowly debated how to keep the rapidly growing drone population under control.

“ The FAA is making this s— up as they go along,” Peter Sachs, a drone attorney based in Connecticut, told The Daily Signal.

  The FAA claims Caterina flew his drone for commercial use at an event in August 2015, though the Minnesota man has never charged anyone for his aerial photography and contends he’s only honing his skills.

  Still, that didn’t stop the government from classifying him not as an individual, but as a company, citing him for five violations with fines of $11,000 each.”


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