The FAA has fined the pilot of an errant recreational drone $20,000 for landing next to an active runway in Las Vegas. Reuben Burciaga lost control of his DJI Phantom 3 shortly after launching it from a parking garage in June 2018 and flying toward the 550-foot tall passenger observation wheel at the Linq Hotel’s open-air entertainment complex on the Las Vegas strip. It then continued to fly on its own, uncontrolled, at an altitude up to 450 feet agl until landing at the airport. The garage was within the normal five-mile drone exclusion area around McCarran International Airport.
After tracing the drone to Burciaga, the FAA cited him for nine separate violations, including flying in controlled airspace, flying over people, and posing a hazard to other aircraft. He was initially fined $14,700, which was increased to $20,000 when he failed to appeal or pay on time.
In a video posted to YouTube, Burciaga seemed to blame the Secret Service, which he said was in town of the day of the drone flight to guard President Trump. He claimed the Secret Service “intercepted” his drone. If true, this could expose Burciaga to criminal charges related to violation of a presidential TFR. Trump arrived in Las Vegas on the morning of June 23, 2018, to deliver a speech. The Secret Service does employ various counter-UAS technologies.