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Pennsylvania man facing jail time after illegally flying drone over AFC Championship game in Baltimore

A Pennsylvania man could face up to four years in prison after he was charged in a federal criminal complaint for illegally flying a drone over the Baltimore Ravens stadium during the AFC Championship last month, causing an unusual delay of game. 

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland announced the charges on Monday, alleging that Matthew Hebert, 44, violated a temporary flight restriction placed on M&T Bank Stadium when he flew a drone over the area during the NFL game. 

“During the game on January 28, 2024, the incursion of an unidentified and unapproved drone was deemed a serious enough threat that NFL Security temporarily suspended the game,” the press release read.

“[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. FBI agents traveled to that location and assisted MSP Troopers. Hebert was located at that location and spoke with law enforcement.” 

According to officials, Hebert’s drone was not registered and he did not have a “Remote Pilot” certificate needed to operate it. He flew the drone 100 meters or higher for around two minutes and took approximately six photos of himself and the stadium. 

Officials believe he also captured video. 

M&T Bank Stadium

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Hebert is charged with knowingly operating an unregistered unmanned aircraft system (UAS) and for knowingly serving as an airman without an airman’s certificate, a federal crime punishable by a maximum of three years in federal prison. 

He is also facing an additional year for willfully violating U.S. National Defense Airspace.

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

Baltimore stadium

The incident sparked the attention of U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who mentioned the incident during a Wednesday press conference in Las Vegas addressing security measures ahead of Super Bowl LVIII. 

“It does not require much imagination to understand the significant threat such an incident could pose. What happened in Baltimore underscores the vital importance of the mission 385 men and women from the Department of Homeland Security are carrying out here in Las Vegas this week.”

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