A Pennsylvania man was charged with federal felonies Monday for flying an unregistered drone over M&T Bank Stadium that disrupted the AFC championship game between the Ravens and the Kansas City Chiefs on Jan. 28.

The drone flown by Matthew Hebert, 45, led to a “administrative timeout” during the game’s first quarter.

There was a temporary flight restriction over the game at the time prohibiting drones from flying within a three nautical mile radius of the stadium. This is standard practice for Major League Baseball, NFL, or NCAA Division One games. The same restrictions are also in place during NASCAR Cup, Indy Car, or Champ Series Race events. The restriction is in place from one hour before to one hour after an event.

Prosecutors say that Hebert’s unmanned aircraft system threatened the stadium’s security and was “serious enough” for NFL security to temporarily suspend the game, according to charging documents. Hebert is charged with knowingly and willfully attempting to serve as an airman without a certificate, violating the U.S. National Defense Airspace.

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

Maryland State Police tracked the movement of the drone directly over the stadium to 533 S. Sharp Street, where the drone landed. FBI agents also arrived at the location to assist state troopers, documents show.

Around 3 p.m., Hebert stepped outside of the Sharp Street location, about one mile from M&T Bank Stadium, and used his phone to access the DJI mobile application, a platform for users to obtain aerial photos and videos, to fly the unmanned aircraft system.

Hebert told law enforcement that he purchased the unmanned aircraft system 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.

Documents say Hebert was “surprised” the mobile application even worked to allow him to fly the aircraft, adding that flight restrictions have prevented him in the past from doing so.

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Hebert assumed he was allowed to fly his drone since the DJI application did not stop it. Hebert allegedly flew the drone around 100 meters or higher for about two minutes. According to charging docs, while in flight, Hebert captured about six photos of himself and the stadium and may have taken a video as well.

The Banner previously reported officials intercepting five drones during a Ravens and Bengals game in November. During the that game, one drone interrupted play when it flew over the seating bowl.

Penelope Blackwell is a Breaking News/Accountability reporter with The Banner. Previously, she covered local government in Durham, NC, for The News & Observer. She received her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Morgan State University and her master’s in journalism from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. 

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