FCC Issues $2.8 Million Fine Against Drone Manufacturer

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Thursday imposed a fine against HobbyKing for offering drone transmission devices that did not follow the agency’s licensing rules. HobbyKing was fined $2,861,128 after “[a]n FCC investigation found that dozens of devices marketed by the company transmitted in unauthorized radio frequency bands,” according to the agency’s press release. The devices allegedly provided video links between transmitters mounted on drones and users controlling the unmanned aircraft.

Although the company’s products were marketed toward amateur use, they operated well above amateur radio frequencies and power levels. FCC certification must be acquired for devices emitting radio frequencies “outside of…bands designated for amateur use.” An FCC investigation “found that 65 models of devices could operate outside those bands – in addition to using designated amateur radio bands – yet the devices were not certified by the Commission.”

The FCC explained that violating its radio frequency regulations poses a risk, saying, “Such unlawful transmissions could interfere with key government and public safety services like aviation systems and weather radar systems.” After the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau conducted an investigation, HobbyKing was warned of its noncompliance and ordered by the FCC “to provide information on its marketing of AV transmitters.” It never responded to this information request.

Founded in 2001, HobbyKing is a Hong Kong-based online seller of model airplanes and remote-controlled devices. The $2.8 million fine was originally proposed by the FCC in 2018 after it investigated the violating devices. HobbyKing must pay the fine within 30 days, else “this matter will be referred to the Department of Justice for collection.”