A High-Flying Drone Hazard Interrupts Major Sporting Event
In a startling drone incident that marred the excitement of the AFC Championship game on January 28 at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, a Pennsylvania man has been charged with felony federal offenses for illegally operating a drone over the stadium, reports CBS News.
Matthew Herbert, a 44-year-old resident of Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, caused a significant delay during the Baltimore Ravens' pivotal playoff game, raising serious security concerns and highlighting the potential dangers of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) at large public events.
Federal Authorities Respond to Security Breach
United States Attorney Erek Barron underscored the severity of the situation, stating, “Illegally operating drones poses a significant security risk that will lead to federal charges.”
He reminded the public that temporary flight restrictions (TFR) are standard protocol during large sporting events to prevent such incidents. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had indeed implemented a TFR for the area surrounding M&T Bank Stadium, which explicitly prohibited drone flights within a three-nautical mile radius.
Acting Special Agent in Charge R. Joseph Rothrock of the FBI's Baltimore Field Office further emphasized the responsibilities of drone operators, warning of the “potential dangers of operating a drone in violation of federal laws and regulations.”
Rothrock's statement highlighted the risks not only to the public but also the potential interference with law enforcement and security operations.
Details of the Drone Incident
According to the Department of Justice, the game faced temporary suspension when NFL Security identified an “unidentified and unapproved drone” as a significant threat. Maryland State Police Troopers were able to track the drone's movement over the stadium and locate its landing site in the 500 block of South Sharp Street in Baltimore, where Herbert was found, and subsequently spoke with law enforcement officers.
Investigations revealed that Herbert had purchased the DJI drone in 2021 and operated it using a DJI account without registering the device or possessing the necessary Remote Pilot certificate. Allegedly, Herbert flew the drone to a height of approximately 330 feet for about two minutes, capturing six photos of himself and the stadium and possibly recording a video.
Legal Consequences and Public Safety Message
Herbert now faces up to three years in federal prison if convicted of knowingly operating an unregistered UAS and serving as an airman without the required certification. This case serves as a stark reminder of the importance of adhering to federal regulations concerning drone operations, especially around crowded public venues.
The incident at the AFC Championship game not only disrupted a major sporting event but also highlighted the critical need for awareness and Education among drone operators regarding safe and Legal drone use. Federal authorities hope this case will underscore the potential consequences of irresponsible drone operations and reinforce the importance of compliance with all applicable laws and regulations to ensure public safety.
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