When a Baltimore Ravens game was halted last month due to a drone flying over M&T Bank Stadium, it wasn’t the first time stadium officials have dealt with unauthorized aircraft. During that game alone, officials intercepted five drones, Maryland Stadium Authority security said Tuesday.
NFL and MLB both require play on the field to stop when an unauthorized drone flies over the seating bowl, and the stoppage during the Ravens’ Thursday Night Football win over the Cincinnati Bengals lasted several minutes.
“It actually was the fifth drone we had that night,” Vernon Conaway Jr., vice president of safety and security for the stadium authority, said Tuesday. “We had four other drones. They didn’t fly above the seating bowl. We were able to locate the owners and explain to them that it’s prohibited activity.”
The operator of the drone that did go over the seating bowl was identified and the Federal Aviation Administration is investigating, Conaway told members of the Maryland Stadium Authority’s board of directors during their regular meeting.
State and local law enforcement don’t have any authority to sanction drone operators, but the FAA can file charges or issue fines up to $30,000, Conaway said. The FAA imposes flight restrictions from one hour before a game to one hour after a game.
The Maryland Stadium Authority uses drone-detection software to spot drones and track down their operators, Conaway said.
During the Nov. 12 Ravens loss to the Cleveland Browns, two drones were intercepted. A drone was also intercepted during the Nov. 5 Ravens win over the Seattle Seahawks.
The Maryland Stadium Authority’s security team intercepted three drones in 2022 and two in 2021.
“It’s a growing problem,” Conaway said.
Conaway said that all major sports stadiums are challenged by the law that limits what actions they can take. Security officials focus on getting the drone landed safely — and not causing an accident — before getting information from the operator to turn over to authorities.
“Our response plans are to identify the operator, explain to the operator that they’re violating the TFR [temporary flight restrictions] and that they need to land the drone immediately,” he said.