The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has reportedly levied a whopping $55,000 fine on a Minnesota man for allegedly flying an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) for a commercial purpose without FAA authorization and in a “careless or reckless manner” last summer.
According to a report from The Daily Signal, 56-year-old Mical Caterina, who does not hold a Section 333 exemption, used a DJI Inspire 1 drone to capture aerial photos of an Aug. 15 ceremony for Cecil the lion in St. Paul, Minn.
Before the flight, the FAA learned that the operations would take place and sent a letter to the event’s organizer to detail the differences between model aircraft and UAS, but the agency reportedly did not respond to Caterina’s call to go over the details of the flight. After the flight, the FAA did, however, return the call to go over what went down.
Three days after the operation, the FAA sent a letter to Caterina to let him know the flight was under investigation; in his own letter the next week, Caterina provided all flight details to the FAA, including the fact that he was not compensated for the photos and that the drone did not go higher than 254 feet in altitude.
Following a February subpoena requesting all of Caterina’s drone photography/cinematography work uploaded to the Internet – with which he complied – the FAA sent him a letter in April to let him know he was facing $55,000 fines for flying the aircraft in a “careless or reckless manner” and operating it for a non-hobby/recreational purpose, the report says.
The charges include flying closer than five miles to an airport and 100 feet of a helicopter, but Caterina maintains that his geofencing-equipped drone prevents operations near an airport and that the UAS was more than 800 feet away from the helicopter.
The Daily Signal report says Caterina has told the agency he plans to fight his fines but has not heard a response. The full coverage can be found here.
In a similar case, back in October, the FAA proposed a $1.9 million civil penalty against Chicago-based SkyPan International for allegedly operating drones without commercial authorization and in a “careless or reckless manner.”