HobbyKing illegal drone transmitter sales case goes to court

HobbyKing FCC fine FPV drones case

HobbyKing, a retail site that develops and sources radio control (RC) products for aviation enthusiasts and FPV drone pilots, is being sued by the United States of America after the company failed to pay nearly $3 million in fines for marketing unauthorized drone transmitters.

HobbyKing was slapped with a $2,861,128 fine by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) back in 2020 for importing and marketing 65 models of drone TV transmitting equipment without proper FCC authorization.

Twelve of these models were also equipped to operate in restricted frequency bands that are typically reserved for federal uses such as the FAA’s critical air traffic control transponder radar systems.

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All in all, the FCC investigated HobbyKing’s equipment marketing for two years before concluding that not only did the online retailer long market non-compliant devices, but it was also “intentionally” marketing devices that could not be certified because of their operating frequencies. And in some cases, the equipment advertised and sold by HobbyKing presented an “egregious threat” to public safety.

HobbyKing has tried to get the fine reduced by providing a variety of arguments and claiming that the FCC’s marketing rules for “versatile” drone equipment that can operate on both amateur and non-amateur frequencies are not clear. The company also stresses it just doesn’t have the ability to pay such a large fine.

But the FCC is clearly not buying that because, in the complaint filed in US District Court in Portland, Oregon, last month, the US government is seeking not just the $2.8 million fine for HobbyKing’s violations, but also $39,278 for the company’s failure to respond to FCC’s orders, and interest.

It should be pointed out that HobbyKing is the trade name of two US-based companies that include ABC Fulfillment Services and Indubitably. The latter’s principal place of business is Portland, and that’s why the civil action lawsuit has been filed there. The court is allowing until December 2022 for an out-of-court settlement, after which the case could go to trial.

Read more: Drone pilot ordered to pay $37,000 fine for endangering military aircraft

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