The Federal Aviation Administration has slapped a camera-equipped quadrocopter operator with a $2,200 fine after he “endangered the safety of the national airspace system” with his three-pound aircraft last September. The fine comes just a few weeks after a federal administrative judge ruled in another case that the FAA has no jurisdiction over small remote-controlled aircraft—a ruling the FAA has appealed.
The fine was levied on David Zablidowsky, a 34-year old Brooklynite and bassist for the 1980s cover band Rubix Kube, who flew his camera-equipped DJI Phantom quadrocopter off of a building on East 38th Street in Manhattan on September 30, 2013. In the process, he crashed the aircraft into multiple nearby buildings before it plummeted more than 20 stories to a sidewalk below, crashing 20 feet from a pedestrian. The pedestrian then took the drone and reported the incident to police.
ablidowsky, who was tracked down by police a week later after being identified from video from the aircraft’s own camera, was charged with reckless endangerment. The case came to the attention of the FAA after the pedestrian, a 40-year old financial advisor, gave the video to WABC News.
In the past, the FAA has pursued only those operating “drones” for profit, basing its charges on violation of the ban on the use of radio-controlled aircraft for business activities. But in this case, the FAA is charging that Zablidowsky flew his aircraft in restricted airspace—Manhattan falls within an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) that carries special requirements for aircraft operations. In a letter to Zablidowsky, FAA officials stated that by not getting authorization to fly the drone, the “operation of the aircraft endangered the safety of the national airspace system.”