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Man faces federal charges for flying drone during Chiefs-Ravens game, which prompted ‘administrative timeout’

Viewers of the Kansas City Chiefs-Baltimore Ravens AFC championship game probably remember the brief pause, which the referee described as an administrative timeout. Now we’re learning what the Federal Bureau of Investigation says happened.

After a commercial break, CBS announcer Jim Nantz provided some details on the administrative timeout: “It was a drone apparently that was interfering too close to the play. It was not ours, we’re told.”

Federal prosecutors in Maryland charged a Pennsylvania man with illegally flying a drone over M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore during the first quarter of the game, which the Ravens lost 17-10.

According to charging documents, after NFL security temporarily halted the game, Maryland State Police tracked the drone from over the stadium to a house on South Sharp Street, about a half-mile from the stadium, where it landed, and was retrieved by 44-year-old Matthew Hebert, who was wearing a Ravens jersey.

FBI agent David Rodski said in the criminal complaint affidavit that Hebert told investigators he’d driven from Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, to his friend’s house, near the stadium.

The FBI said Hebert had no training operating drones. advertised as an ultralight and foldable drone, was not registered, and Hebert didn’t have a remote pilot certification from the FAA to operate it.

Investigators said Hebert flew the drone, at a height of over 100 meters, for about two minutes, during which he took six photos and possibly a video.

Hebert told investigators he controlled the drone from his smartphone.

“Hebert was surprised the DJI application allowed him to operate the UAS, because in past occasions the DJI application prevented him from operating the UAS due to flight restrictions,” prosecutors wrote. “Hebert assumed he was allowed to fly his UAS since the DJI application did not prevent him from doing so.”

A temporary flight restriction issued by the Federal Aviation Administration, which prohibits all aircraft, including drones, from flying within three nautical miles of the stadium was in place, starting an hour before kickoff, and extending one hour after the game ends. A temporary flight restriction (TFR) is imposed before any event in a stadium or sorting venue having a seating capacity of 30,000 or more.

In November, the FAA said it would investigate a drone that briefly delayed a Ravens-Bengals game.

Hebert was charged with three felony counts related to operating an unregistered drone, serving as an airman without a certificate and violating national defense airspace.

Hebert faces a maximum sentence of three years for knowingly operating an unregistered drone and for flying without an airman’s license if he’s convicted. In addition, he faces an additional year for operating the drone in restricted airspace.

However, the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office says sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. An initial appearance and arraignment will be scheduled later this month, according to the state.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.聽

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Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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