Pennsylvania man charged with flying drone over Baltimore stadium during AFC championship game

BALTIMORE (AP) — A Pennsylvania man has been charged with illegally flying a drone over Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium during the AFC championship game between the Ravens and Kansas City Chiefs last month, prompting security to temporarily suspend the game, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland announced Monday.

Matthew Hebert, 44, of Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, was charged with three felony counts related to operating an unregistered drone, serving as an airman without a certificate and violating national defense airspace on Jan. 28.

Drones are barred from flying within 3 miles (5 kilometers) of stadiums that seat at least 30,000 people during events including NFL and MLB games, and in the hour before they start and after they end, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. In November, the administration said it would investigate a drone that briefly delayed a Ravens-Bengals game.

Maryland State troopers followed the unidentified and unapproved drone to a nearby neighborhood where it landed and found Hebert, who admitted to operating the drone, FBI Special Agent David Rodski wrote in an affidavit. Hebert told troopers and FBI agents that he bought the drone online in 2021 and used an app to operate it, but he didn’t have any training or a license to operate a drone.

Hebert, who was wearing a Ravens jersey was visiting the home of friends in Baltimore for the football game, said he didn’t know about restrictions around the stadium during the game, according to the affidavit. The app previously had prevented Hebert from operating the drone due to flight restrictions, so while he was surprised that he could operate it, he assumed he was allowed to fly it.

Hebert flew the drone about 100 meters (330 feet) or higher for about two minutes, capturing six photos of himself and the stadium and may have taken a video too, but he didn’t know that his flight had disrupted the game until he was approached by a trooper, according to the affidavit.

Reached by telephone on Tuesday, Hebert declined to comment.

If convicted, Hebert faces a maximum of three years in federal prison for knowingly operating an unregistered drone and for knowingly serving as an airman without an airman’s certificate. He faces a maximum of one year in federal prison for willfully violating United States national defense airspace. An initial appearance and arraignment are expected to be scheduled later this month.