Last week, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) responded to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, releasing the list of drone pilots (individual and commercial) who have been fined for flying drones recklessly or in restricted airspace (like airports, government building and sports arenas). While this list has only a handful of entries, it can tell us a lot about the current state of drone operation enforcement. The range of fines (and settlements) starts at $400, and reaches the outlier of $1.9 million against Skypan, which we wrote about on our blog back in October. The list also tells us that if you are flying your drone on the East Coast, the FAA’s eastern region office seems to be the most active in this area of enforcement so operate your drone properly and safely. Otherwise, there were only a few isolated fines in Texas, Alabama and Puerto Rico. There have also been fines for not using a drone with “an operable coded radar beacon transponder” and “automatic altitude reporting equipment.” However, almost no drones have these capabilities, and the regulations that the FAA is relying on are actually for manned aircrafts.

The list of drone fines is as follows:

  • Austin, Texas, August 30, 2014, Shawn Phillip Wyse; $1,100;
  • Tuscaloosa, Alabama, November 14, 2015, Gregory Taylor; $1,100;
  • Queens, New York, May 25, 2014, Clinton Bascom; $1,100;
  • San Juan, Puerto Rico, October 18, 2015, Marcos Plaja-Ferreira and Alberto Haber-Flores; $1,100 each;
  • US Coast Guard Housing Complex Rio Bayamon, Puerto Rico, Jorge Lubo, July 5, 2015; $1,100;
  • Fairfield Avenue and Fort George Hill (Bronx), Wilkens Mendoza, July 7, 2014; $1,100;
  • Capitol Building, Albany, New York, Adam Rupeka, September 17, 2015; $1,100;
  • Portside Apartments, East Boston, Jose Paderes, August 30, 2015; $1,100;
  • Manhattan, New York, July 7, 2014, Remy Castro; $1,600;
  • Arlington, Texas, June 8, 2014, Robert Eddelman; $2,200;
  • 290 Central Avenue, Brooklyn, Isaac Rosa, September 17, 2014; $2,200;
  • 38th Street between 3rd Avenue and Lexington Avenue, Manhattan, David Zablidowski, September 30, 2013; $2,200;
  • Citi Field, Henry Wolters, May 6, 2015; $2,200;
  • Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Queens, Daniel Verley, September 3, 2015; $2,200;
  • Washington DC, (Polo Fields in West Potomac Park), Damian Dizard, March 25, 2015; $3,300;
  • West Potomac Park, Washington DC, Monica Singleton, March 25, 2015; $3,300;
  • Lafayette Park, Washington DC, Ryan MacDonald, May 14, 2015; $4,400;
  • Washington DC, (G Street and 10th St NW) Shawn Usman, January 26 2015; $5,500;
  • University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Raphael Pirker, April 13, 2012; $10,000;
  • 441 East Fordham Road, Bronx NY, Xizmo Media Productions, May 16, 2015; $18,700;
  • All over Manhattan, SkyPan; $1.9 Million; and
  • Coney Island Boardwalk, David Quinones, July 4, 2015; Surrendered Pilot’s license.

Notably, almost all of the FAA’s enforcement in this area has been largely created from publicly available information such as YouTube videos, commercial operators’ websites and media and police reports. And since the FAA uses the standard “medium or high actual or potential risk to safety” to determine the fines for improper drone operations, without an exact threshold defined, drone operators must proceed with caution and know where they can and cannot fly around (and above).