As millions of Americans look forward to the excitement of Sunday’s Super Bowl, a handful of halfwits have already been caught flouting a drone ban by flying their birds over Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium in the days before the big game.
The FAA imposed a no-fly zone on January 31 that will stay in place until 11.59 p.m. local time on February 3. It bans drone owners from flying their machines within one mile of the stadium, though on game day the zone widens to 30 miles.
Despite the restriction, officers have already confiscated six drones that were spotted flying close to the stadium in the past couple of days, the Associated Press (AP) reported.
“If these drones go out of control — if a pilot loses control of one — they can go into a crowd and cause serious injuries,” FBI spokesman Kevin Rowson told the AP, reminding us of a close shave for a sports fan at a baseball game a couple of years ago.
Rowson also pointed out that when his team sees a drone in the air, they have to consider that it might be up there for more sinister purposes than simply capturing dramatic footage of the game below, saying, “We have no idea if it’s friendly, or if it’s someone who has nefarious plans and it’s weaponized.”
While there’s been no word from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) about whether it’s planning to get the guns out for any rogue drones spotted close to Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium — or using some other method to take them down — the guardians of the 2019 Super Bowl have warned that those caught breaking the rules could land up in court.
Indeed, the FBI said the six pilots caught flying their machines in recent days will be referred to federal prosecutors for possible charges. Any drone operator who enters a no-fly zone without permission could face fines of more than $20,000, and even jail time.
Check before you fly
The FAA advises drone pilots to always check its B4UFly app (iOS and Android) to see if there are any flight restrictions in place, whether permanent (at places such as airports) or temporary (at big events like Sunday’s Super Bowl).
It’s also produced a video (above) encouraging Super Bowl fans to take their lucky jersey, face paint, and team spirit to the game, but to “leave your drone at home, and make the game safe for everyone.”