Benefits / Resources / Articles
June 16, 2016

FAA Fines Drone Operator $55k For Photo

When news broke of the killing of "Cecil the Lion" animal activists everywhere were outraged. There were hundreds of protests and demonstrations in support of the slain lion. So why did this demonstration cost Mical Caterina, an amateur drone photographer, a whopping $55,000? 


Last August Mical Caterina decided to help a friend of a friend by using his drone to take a photo of the human chain-link Cecil the Lion mural they created. Caterina received no monetary compensation. The FAA sent a letter to the coordinator of the event concerning the drone usage. Unable to clarify the contents of the letter with the FAA, the event went on as scheduled, but this May, the photographer received a subpoena for the drone images and videos, followed by a $55,000 fine.


This story corroborates why photographers need to keep up with drone legislation, and why it is so important FAA regulations be reformed.

Under current rules, Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) / drone model aircraft operations are strictly limited to hobby or recreational use only. Additionally, anyone flying drones for recreation or hobby purposes is to stay within the following guidelines:

Fly below 400 feet and remain clear of surrounding obstacles
Keep the aircraft within visual line of sight at all times
Remain well clear of and do not interfere with manned aircraft operations
Don't fly within 5 miles of an airport unless you contact the airport and control tower and obtain an authorization to fly before operating your drone
Don't fly near people or stadiums
Don't fly a UAS that weighs more than 55 lbs
Don't be careless or reckless with your unmanned aircraft - you could be fined for endangering people or other aircrafts

Drones are evolving into a great way for photographers to safely gain skill and enhance their businesses. Drones can be put to good use and PPA, along with other Photography partners, is working hard to lobby Congress and get these regulations updated to allow professional photographers to leverage UAS Photography! We are expecting very favorable changes in the coming week, but in the meantime, please remember, until the FAA finalizes new regulations, any other uses are prohibited unless you have FAA pilot certification and a Section 333 exemption and fines, although rare, are very heavy.

Stay up to date on drone regulations and changes at