A California man is learning the hard way that you ignore the FAA’s drone regulations at your own risk. He is facing nearly $20,000 in fines from the federal government after his runaway drone flew over the Las Vegas strip and landed next to an active runway at Las Vegas’ main airport.
According to local FOX station KVVU, the incident took place in June of 2018, when California tourist Reuben Burciaga decided to fly his DJI Phantom 3 over the Las Vegas strip to get a picture of the High Roller Observation Wheel.
After launching the drone from the corner of the Cesars Palace parking structure and flying it a short distance to the Las Vegas strip, the drone lost its GPS connection and, in Burciaga’s words, “started acting all weird and just took off.” From there, it drifted for two miles, flying over some of the busiest hotels on the planet before ultimately landing “just feet away from an active runway” at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport.
You can see actual top-down footage from the drone in the KVVU report below, including footage captured as it flew over the busy international airport:
Workers at the airport found the drone and, after a lengthy investigation, the FAA was finally able to identify Burciaga as the pilot. That’s when the fines started coming in.
In April of this year, Burciaga’s drone was returned to him alongside a letter listing what an FAA spokesperson calls “a litany of violations,” and a $14,700 fine. Making matters worse, Burciaga failed to respond to any of the FAA’s letters for months, missing the appeal period and racking up additional “late fees” that now brings his total owed to nearly $20,000.
For his part, Burciaga admits that what he did was dangerous and understands that he should be fined, but feels the fine is excessive. He thinks something to the tune of $1,000 – $3,000 would be more appropriate; unfortunately, at this point, he’s facing at least that much in late fees.
According to KVVU, the fine is now in the hands of the US Treasury Department, which will be able to “pay” the fine out of any money owed to Burciaga by the federal government, up to and including his income tax returns and even social security benefits.