A federal grand jury has charged two men for illegally flying drones over an NFL and MLB game in Cincinnati.
The indictment for Dailon Dabney, 24, and Travis Lenhoff, 38, stems from two separate drone incidents involving Cincinnati Bengals and Cincinnati Reds games.
The Cincinnati Bengals hosted an NFL playoff game at Paul Brown Stadium on January 15 this year. Dabney allegedly flew his drone illegally into the stadium during the game, hovering over the players and portions of the stadium crowd. He not only recorded his illegal drone flight but also posted the video to social media sites and YouTube.
The second incident took place on April 12, which was Opening Day for the Cincinnati Reds’ 2022 season. Lenhoff allegedly flew a drone into the restricted flight area of Great American Ballpark during the Opening Day festivities.
To make matters worse, Dabney and Lenhoff did not register their drones with the FAA, despite such registration being mandatory for any drone that weighs more than .55 pounds and less than 55 pounds. The men do not hold remote pilot certifications either.
So now, each defendant is charged with operating an unregistered drone, which is a federal crime punishable by up to three years in prison. Dabney is also charged with violating a temporary flight restriction, punishable by up to one year in prison.
US Attorney Kenneth L. Parker points out that illegal drone flights over sporting events has become a “growing problem” that poses a direct risk to the players and the individuals in the stands. Parker says:
Even if the operator does not have an intent to harm, the operator could easily lose control and injure someone. Moreover, the sight of a drone flying overhead could lead to panic in the crowd. If you attend these events like Reds games and Bengals games – leave the drones at home.
These thoughts are echoed by FBI Cincinnati Special Agent in Charge J. William Rivers, who says:
Flying a drone over a stadium full of fans is dangerous and illegal without the proper FAA training, licensing, and approved flight plan. We will continue to work with the FAA and local police to investigate these incidents when proper FAA protocols and procedures are not followed.