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Man Faces Years in Prison for Flying Drone Over AFC Championship Game

Paul Steinbach,


A Pennsylvania man is facing felony federal charges and years in federal prison in connection with flying a drone over Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium during the AFC Championship Game on Jan. 28.

As reported by Baltimore CBS affiliate WJZ, Matthew Herbert, 44, from Chadds Ford, Pa., is being charged for illegally operating the drone, which caused a delay during the playoff game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Kansas City Chiefs.

“Illegally operating drones poses a significant security risk that will lead to federal charges,” said United States attorney Erek Barron, “Temporary flight restrictions are always in place during large sporting events.”

“Operating a drone requires users to act responsibly and educate themselves on when and how to use them safely,” said acting special agent in charge Joseph Rothrock of the FBI’s Baltimore Field Office. “The FBI would like to remind the public of the potential dangers of operating a drone in violation of federal laws and regulations.  The reckless operation of a UAS [unmanned aircraft system] in the vicinity of a large crowd can be dangerous to the public, as well as interfere with other law enforcement and security operations.”

According to the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, the Federal Aviation Administration put in place a temporary flight restriction (TFR) for M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on Jan. 28 during the National Football League AFC Championship game, which precluded the flight of any UAS, including flying a UAS under the Exception for Recreational Flyers, WJZ’s Adam Thompson reported.

A TFR temporarily restricts certain aircraft, including a UAS, from operating within a three nautical mile radius of the stadium.

According to the Department of Justice, during the game, “the incursion of an unidentified and unapproved drone was deemed a serious enough threat that NFL Security temporarily suspended the game.”

Maryland State Police Troopers tracked the movement of the drone directly over the stadium and deployed to the area where the drone landed in the 500 block of South Sharp Street in Baltimore.

Hebert was located at that location and spoke with law enforcement, according to the DOJ.

Hebert told officers that he purchased a DJI UAS in 2021 and used the DJI account to operate the drone.  The drone was not registered, nor did Hebert possess a Remote Pilot certificate to operate it.

According to WJZ’s Thompson, Hebert allegedly flew the drone approximately 100 meters or higher for approximately two minutes. According to the affidavit, while in flight, Hebert captured approximately six photos of himself and the stadium and may have taken a video, as well.

If convicted, Hebert faces a maximum sentence of three years in federal prison for knowingly operating an unregistered UAS and for knowingly serving as an airman without an airman’s certificate. Other reports, including one from Business Insider, put the potential prison time at up to four years.

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