Is the FAA flexing its muscles or going way overboard? What do you think of this $1.9 Million fine? Here is the background from a wonderful in-depth story on Motherboard.
Over the course of 2012, it received at least two more anonymous complaints regarding SkyPan’s flights. In the drone industry, such anonymous complaints are common. Until recently, nearly all drone businesses operated without authorization from the FAA—competitors often call in complaints about each other to gain a competitive advantage.
The FAA’s investigation turned up several photographs taken by SkyPan. (It’s unclear where these photos were taken from, but SkyPan’s own website is a good bet.) It was impossible to tell from the photos whether or not a drone or manned helicopter was used for the photos. In other instances, it was impossible to prove when the flights took place or how they were taken, according to a sworn statement by John Wilkens, an FAA safety inspector.
Undeterred, the FAA began digging deeper. It called Macklowe Properties, one of SkyPan’s Manhattan clients, to ask it for official contracts with SkyPan. According to those documents, Macklowe paid SkyPan $53,355 for at least one photo session using a drone.