Multiple news outlets, including the Baltimore Sun have reported a swift conclusion to the federal case against Matthew Hebert, who faced federal felony charges related to flying a drone that delayed the AFC Championship Game at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on January 28th.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles D. Austin sentenced Hebert last week. He was ordered to serve one year of probation and pay a $500 fine for a misdemeanor conviction, as confirmed by his 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.”

Per the affidavit supporting the criminal complaint, on January 28, 2024, the Federal Aviation Administration implemented a temporary flight restriction (TFR) for M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore during the National Football League (NFL) AFC Championship game. This restriction prohibited the operation of any Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), including those covered under the Exception for Recreational Flyers. The TFR, a standard protocol for stadiums or sporting venues hosting regular or postseason Major League Baseball, NFL, or NCAA Division One Games, as well as NASCAR Cup, Indy Car, or Champ Series Races, delineates a three nautical mile radius around the stadium. The TFR comes into effect one hour before the scheduled start time and remains in place until one hour after the conclusion of a qualifying event.

On January 28, 2024, an unauthorized and unidentified drone entered the airspace during a game, prompting NFL Security to suspend the event due to safety concerns temporarily. Maryland State Police (MSP) Troopers tracked the drone’s path and responded to its landing spot in the 500 block of South Sharp Street in Baltimore. FBI agents joined the MSP Troopers to assist. Hebert was located at the address where the drone landed and cooperated with law enforcement during the investigation.

During questioning, Hebert revealed that he had purchased a DJI Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) in 2021 and operated it using a DJI account. However, the drone was not registered, and Hebert did not possess a Remote Pilot certificate, which is required for its operation. Hebert relied solely on the DJI application to determine if he had authorization to fly the UAS. Despite encountering flight restrictions in the past through the DJI app, Hebert believed he had clearance for his flight on January 28, 2024, as the app did not impose any restrictions. He allegedly flew the drone at an altitude of approximately 100 meters or higher for about two minutes, during which he took approximately six photos, including selfies and images of the stadium, and may have recorded a video.

Hebert faced a maximum sentence of three years in federal prison for knowingly operating an unregistered Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) and acting as an airman without the required airman’s certificate. Additionally, Hebert could have faced a maximum of one year in federal prison for willfully violating United States National Defense Airspace.

Post Image Credit- Adobe Stock by dima