FAA reportedly hunts pilot of rule-violating Bengals drone video

FAA Bengals drone video

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is reportedly looking for the pilot of a drone who broke a series of UAV flying regulations while recording a video above and around the Cincinnati Bengal’s NFL playoff game against Las Vegas Saturday. If caught, the flier risks dizzying fines and possible jail time for his 1:15 film.

The video, taken during the Bengal’s 26-19 victory over the Raiders, unleashed a cascade of condemnation – and at times outrage – from drone enthusiasts for its brazen flaunting of FAA rules banning certain kinds of operation. In this case, the pilot violated prohibitions of flying UAVs around stadiums hosting NFL, MLB, NCAA, or other major sporting events an hour before they begin until at least 60 minutes after they end. Its flight above and around Cincinnati’s Paul Brown Stadium almost certainly ignored beyond visible line of site restrictions. The craft’s overflight of the packed stands – and even on-field players –  similarly broke FAA restrictions on flying above people.

Response to the illicitly shot drone video of the Bengals’ game unleashed an immediate and enduring torrent of angry criticism of the pilot. Since it was uploaded on YouTube Sunday, the footage has been viewed over 38,000 times and elicited over 630 comments. Virtually all of those condemned the repeated FAA rules violations – an unabashed disregard of regulations and act of irresponsibility that many respondents said would only worsen the often unflattering reputation drones suffer among large parts of public opinion. 

“A lot of us go through a lot… (l)earn the rules, follow guidelines, get certified,” lamented Indy Aerial Drone Photography LLC in a comment. “You are definitely one of the reasons rules will get stricter, and (you’re) hurting the hobbyists the most. I don’t know anyone that flies that will approve of this.”

Several other people responding warned the account owner, BrickByBrickProduction513, of the near-certain legal woes the video would generate. And according to media accounts, those troubles may now be on the way. Several publications reported Wednesday the FAA issued a statement confirming its “local safety office is aware of the video and is investigating.” 

In addition to taking serious heat from commentators about the risks and grave consequences the drone pilot created in making the Bengals’ video, the person at the controls was also frequently mocked for the less than professional navigational (and filming) skills involved.

“Judging by how ‘smooth’ the footage is I’m glad this person didn’t crash the drone and potentially injure someone,” noted a commentator called Better view from above. “Also thank you for the what NOT to do if you get a drone for Christmas video!”

In reply to certain detractors, the uploader of the video was often dismissive and shrugged off the legal risks of the FAA, FBI, NFL, and other actors likely to seek an accounting for the illegal flight (a remarkably breezy flippancy from someone who posted the incriminating document on not-exactly-under-the-radar YouTube  – and on a channel containing a great deal of the owner’s other videos to boot).

The poster was similarly unapologetic in replying to accusations the flight had been as irresponsible as well as illegal, and risked sullying the reputation of all UAV enthusiasts – including commentators who both learned and respect FAA regulations when they fly.

“I don’t know the rules for sure,” came the defiant ignorance-as-an-excuse reply from the pilot, “I learn as I go.”

It’s likely BrickByBrickProductions513 won’t be going very much longer. Given the very public and traceable track left by the Bengals’ drone video, its pilot stands a very high chance of being located by authorities sooner rather than later. When that happens, the potential fines of $20,000 or (much) more may be meted out on a per-offense basis.

Any financial punishment, meanwhile, might well also be accompanied by legal charges and jail time – a fate that would at least give the person responsible lots of time to bone up on FAA drone rules for post-incarceration flights.

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