A pilot who flew a drone into M&T Bank Stadium’s airspace Thursday night, twice stalling the Baltimore Ravens division rival matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals, was unaware of the restricted zone, the Maryland Stadium Authority said Friday.
Referees stopped the game and players cleared the field because the airspace around any National Football League stadium is off-limits for an hour before and after a game. Despite the odd delay, the Ravens emerged victorious.
Officials from the Maryland Stadium Authority and Maryland State Police tracked and responded to where the drone operator was and told them to land the drone. The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the incident and will determine whether the pilot will be penalized.
The officials “identified and interviewed the pilot/operator who was unaware of the restrictions and did not have a [temporary flight restriction] waiver to operate the drone in stadium airspace during the game,” a stadium authority spokesperson said.
Although the FAA can’t criminally prosecute offenders, it can fine drone operators more than $30,000 if their conduct is unsafe and endangers other aircraft or people on the ground. The FAA can also suspend or revoke pilot certifications.
“The FAA encourages the public to report unauthorized drone operations to local law enforcement and to help discourage this dangerous, illegal activity,” a spokesperson said in a statement.
Along with NFL games, drones can’t be flown within 3 miles of a stadium before or after any Major League Baseball and NCAA Division One football games or NASCAR Sprint Cup, Indy Car and Champ Series races.
Drone disruptions have become an increasing challenge for venue security nationwide.
Maryland Stadium Authority officials say more enforcement is needed.
“The drone detection technology the Maryland Stadium Authority implemented in 2021 has been effective for detecting unauthorized drones operating in airspace around the Camden Yards Sport Complex, but more needs to be done around drone security,” Vernon J. Conaway Jr., the stadium authority’s vice president of safety and security, said in a statement.
Stadium security officials can track and identify unauthorized drones and their pilots, but state and local law enforcement should have more authority to use “counter-drone measures to mitigate those drones that pose a credible threat to our venues,” Conaway continued.
All recreational flyers are required by law to pass a safety test, and they must register the drone with the FAA.
Last month, Columbus police charged a 28-year-old man for test-flying a drone over the Ohio Stadium during the Ohio State and Maryland football game, causing the players to leave the field.
Maryland Stadium Authority officials in 2021 hired a security company that specializes in drone detection after a drone hovered near M&T Bank Stadium for 10 minutes during a December game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The authority wanted to beef up its detection security that year for the upcoming Orioles season at Camden Yards.
New signs around Camden Yards remind fans the stadium is a “No Drone Zone.”