In a world where drones are becoming an integral part of our daily lives, the 2022 Bengals-Raiders Wildcard game witnessed a disruption that took the NFL by surprise. On a chilly January day, PayCor Stadium became the epicenter of a drone controversy, leading the NFL to rethink its drone protocol.
The Disruptive Moment
On January 15, 2022, as the Cincinnati Bengals clashed with the Las Vegas Raiders, an unexpected guest made its presence felt above the stadium. A drone, unauthorized and definitely unwelcome, hovered above the players and the crowd.
As reported by the Cincinnati Enquirer, the “incident led to an NFL policy change.” Judge Matthew McFarland emphasized, “This is a new and emerging safety issue that (the NFL is) taking seriously,” noting that such incidents were rare, especially in the U.S.
The Man Behind the Sticks
The drone pilot, 25-year-old Dailon Dabney, was no seasoned criminal but a content creator seeking views for his YouTube channel. In court, Dabney reportedly confessed he was “trying to get more content” for his channel, aiming to boost subscriber counts and revenue.
He admitted to earning money by shooting videos. However, Dabney's aspirations came at a cost. He had to forfeit his drone, a DJI Air 2, valued over $1,000. Additionally, Judge McFarland sentenced him to a year of probation and mandated 40 hours of community service.
A Precedent Set
Dabney wasn't alone in facing Legal consequences. Travis Lenhoff, another drone enthusiast, had flown his drone over the Great American Ballpark on its Opening Day in 2022. Like Dabney, Lenhoff pleaded guilty to the charge and received a year's probation.
Both infringements highlighted a critical point: the violation of temporary flight restrictions. Specifically, flying drones over stadiums designated as Temporary Flight Restriction zones during sporting events is illegal.
Flying drones comes with responsibility. Incidents like these serve as a cautionary tale, emphasizing the importance of adhering to flight restrictions, especially during significant events. And as for the NFL, they've made their stance clear: safety first, game second.
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