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Ravens Insider: Man who flew drone over Ravens-Chiefs AFC title game sentenced to probation


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The Pennsylvania man who prosecutors said flew a drone over M&T Bank Stadium during this year’s AFC championship game pleaded guilty Thursday to a federal airspace violation.

Matthew Hebert, of Chadds Ford, was sentenced Thursday by U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles D. Austin to serve one year of probation and was ordered to pay a $500 fine for the misdemeanor conviction, according to the 44-year-old’s defense attorney, Justin Lake.

“Mr. Hebert cooperated with the Government’s investigation from its inception through its conclusion,” Lake said in an emailed statement. “He is grateful that this unfortunate situation is now behind him and for the opportunity to move forward in a positive manner.”

NFL security temporarily suspended the Jan. 28 game between the Ravens and the Kansas City Chiefs during the first quarter due to the drone flying over the stadium. Maryland State Police tracked the drone to a landing spot on the 500 block of South Sharp Street in the Otterbein neighborhood, about half a mile away from the stadium. There, state troopers and FBI agents found Hebert, who said he was visiting friends in Baltimore for the postseason game and admitted to flying the drone, but said he relied on his drone’s remote control app to tell him whether he was not allowed to fly it in certain areas, according to a court affidavit.

The drone was also not registered, and Hebert didn’t have a remote pilot certification from the Federal Aviation Administration to operate the unmanned device, according to the affidavit.

Hebert was not arrested, though he was charged for the drone flight just over a week after the Ravens’ final game of the season, during which Baltimore lost, 17-10, in front of about 71,430 fans, including numerous celebrity guests. Federal and stadium officials highlighted a need for education about airspace rules in statements after the 44-year-old was charged.

“Operating a drone requires users to act responsibly and educate themselves on when and how to use them safely,” FBI agent R. Joseph Rothrock of the Baltimore field office said in an early February statement announcing the charges.

The FAA implements a temporary flight restriction for any stadium or sporting event with a seating capacity of 30,000 or more during any MLB, NFL or NCAA Division I game, as well as NASCAR, IndyCar Series or ChampCar Series main races. The Maryland Stadium Authority installed drone detection software in 2021 after a drone sighting at a Ravens game in 2020, though drone sightings and ensuing stoppages continued in Baltimore — this past Ravens season alone saw 12 drone violations.

There were four total unauthorized drones at the Jan. 28 game, though games are typically paused only when drones fly above the seating bowl and potentially endanger fans. In the complaint against Hebert, authorities said the drone flight they traced to Hebert “resulted in a threat deemed serious enough by NFL Security to temporarily suspend the game.”

With Hebert’s plea to the misdemeanor airspace violation, which itself carries a maximum sentence of one year of incarceration, prosecutors dropped other drone-related charges related to the incident that would have totaled a maximum sentence of four years in federal prison. They recommended the probationary sentence and $500 fine, according to Hebert’s plea agreement, in which prosecutors noted that the 44-year-old had promptly accepted responsibility for the offense and was a “Zero Point Offender,” meaning, among other things, that he had no prior criminal convictions.

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