Drone, NFL

Pennsylvania Man Faces Prison Time For Reckless Drone Flight During Baltimore NFL Playoff Game

Matthew Hebert is now confronted with up to four years in prison for flying a drone during an NFL playoff game at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.

Business Insider reports that Matthew Hebert, a 44-year-old man from Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, is now confronted with the possibility of up to four years in prison for flying a drone during an NFL playoff game at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. The incident allegedly occurred during the AFC Championship game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Kansas City Chiefs on Jan. 28, prompting NFL security to suspend the game for several minutes during the first quarter.

Hebert allegedly flew the drone for approximately two minutes, capturing at least six photos of himself and the stadium from an altitude of about 100 meters. This unauthorized flight violated established flight restrictions, which are standard for sporting events held in stadiums. United States Attorney Erek L. Barron emphasized the gravity of such breaches, stating, “Flight restrictions are always in place whenever a sporting event is held in a stadium,” according to PennLive.

The flight restrictions for this particular event were active one hour before the game commenced and extended until one hour after its conclusion. Hebert’s actions not only disrupted the NFL playoff game but also raised significant security concerns, prompting the swift intervention of law enforcement.

Hebert, who cooperated with police who tracked the drone to its landing site outside the stadium, claimed to have purchased the device believing that the accompanying app would prevent flights within restricted zones. According to his statement, when the app failed to limit his operation, Hebert assumed it was permissible to fly the drone during the game.

However, investigations revealed that the drone was not registered, and Hebert lacked the required pilot’s license for its operation, compounding the seriousness of the charges against him.

Hebert now faces charges of willfully violating United States National Defense Airspace and knowingly serving as an airman without an airman’s certificate. These charges carry a potential combined prison sentence of up to four years.

Acting Special Agent in Charge R. Joseph Rothrock of the FBI’s Baltimore Field Office underscored the responsibility that comes with drone operation, stating, “Operating a drone requires users to act responsibly and educate themselves on when and how to use them safely.” The FBI’s statement also highlighted the potential dangers and interference with law enforcement and security operations that can result from the reckless operation of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in crowded areas, according to Business Insider.

As the legal proceedings unfold, Hebert’s case serves as a stark reminder of the consequences of irresponsible drone usage, prompting discussions on the need for heightened awareness and adherence to federal laws and regulations governing drone flights.

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