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Uncle Sam Sues Drone Flyer For Big $$$

Lawsuit Against Philadelphia Resident Alleges Violations of FARs When Flying Drones

A US Atty, Jacqueline C. Romero, is hitting the media with the announcement that she has filed a complaint in US District Court against Michael DiCiurcio of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In this complaint, the United States alleges that DiCiurcio operated drones, 'unlawfully and unsafely in the Philadelphia area between at least December 2019 to the present, in violation of Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) requirements.'

The United States alleges that DiCiurcio operated flights at night, in close proximity to the William Penn Statue, PSFS Building, and the Liberty One Building. On one occasion, Romero reports that the sUAS almost struck a church steeple during flight. The United States alleges that, during certain flights, DiCiurcio improperly operated the sUAS inside of controlled airspace near the Philadelphia International Airport, over people and cars, and, in at least one instance, lost control of the sUAS, causing it to fly uncontrolled over Philadelphia.

The FAA has warned DiCiurcio in writing and provided him with counseling and education regarding requirements for safe operations of a sUAS under the FARs. The United States alleges that DiCiurcio nonetheless has continued to operate sUASs illegally and in a careless or reckless manner that endangers others. The United States seeks substantial civil penalties (apparently in the neighborhood of $200K) and an injunction to prevent additional illegal conduct.   

“Failing to adhere to the safety requirements for flying drones endangers people and property,” said U.S. Attorney Romero. “All drone operators have a responsibility to ensure that they observe all applicable regulations and guidance. Our office is committed to ensuring total compliance with the FAA regulations and we will vigorously enforce violations wherever we find them.”

“We work hard to educate people about safely flying their drones, and we don’t hesitate to take strong enforcement action when pilots deliberately flout the rules,” said Deputy FAA Administrator Katie Thomson.

The allegations regarding unsafe sUAS flights in violation of FAA regulations are described in detail in the complaint. The case is captioned United States of America v. Michael DiCiurcio, Case No. 24-cv-00612 (E.D. Pa.).

The case has been investigated by the FAA’s Flight Standards Division and the U.S. Department of Transportation Office of the Inspector General. The case is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Viveca D. Parker.

FMI: www.justice.gov

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