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FAA investigating illegal drone flight over Fenway Park: Updated

Update at 5:30 PM on April 14: Boston police have seized the drone that was illegally flying over Fenway Park Thursday night. The drone operator was a juvenile and it is not clear if charges will be filed. The drone was seized during an investigation involving Boston police, State Police, the Suffolk District Attorney’s office, and the FAA, according to a statement from Boston police on Saturday.

Original story below
There are many positive use cases for drones, but this is not one of them. A DJI Phantom drone was spotted multiple times illegally flying over Fenway Park last night during a Boston Red Sox game. According to Boston Police, the drone was first spotted around 9:30 PM and was last seen around 10:20 PM. Videos of the incident are all over social media.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations prohibit drones from flying over stadiums during events. Drones are not allowed within three miles of the stadium from between one hour before the game to one hour after. Of course, drones are also prohibited from flying over 400 feet in the air and within five miles of an airport.

DJI said in a statement that “whoever flew this drone over the stadium apparently overrode our geofencing system and deliberately violated the FAA temporary flight restriction in place over the game. DJI’s AeroScope system can remotely identify and monitor airborne DJI drones in areas where it has been installed, and this incident shows why the federal government must mandate a remote identification system for airborne drones as soon as possible.”

Permits and waivers can be issued for a drone’s use, but according to WCVB 5 in Boston and other reports, the FAA is looking into if one was given. The Red Sox said the drone was unauthorized. At press time, the police reportedly still have not identified the person flying the drone.

Civil penalties for such violations could cost up to $32,666 and criminal fines could total $250,000 with possible jail time up to three years.

Rogue drone incidents like this highlight the potential dangers of drones and could hurt prospects for commercial drone users and vendors. And the timing of this incident is especially interesting since the FAA is seeking comments by April 15 about new proposed rules governing the safe flight of drones. As of April 10, DJI said the FAA received 1,300 comments in all, with 84 comments expressing concerns about drone flights at night and over people.

Brendan Schulman, DJI’s vice president of policy and legal affairs, recently said drones represent “transformative technology” and that the FAA rules are necessary. “Given how vital these rules are for every professional drone pilot in America, it is surprising to see how few comments have been received,” he said. “We strongly encourage professional drone operators and fleet operators to read the FAA’s proposals and submit their perspectives on how to ensure drones can handle expanded responsibilities safely.”

This is not the first time a drone has flown illegally over a stadium. In 2017, to share one instance, a soccer game in the UK was temporarily stopped as a drown seen flying over the Huish Park stadium.

Major US airports are also assessing potential threats caused by drones. The FAA said in January 2019 that 43 flights into New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International Airport were required to hold after a reported drone sighting at a nearby airport, while nine flights were diverted.

The Boston Police Department held a news conference today, ironically, about public safety for this Monday’s running of the 123rd Boston Marathon. Typically there is a no-drone zone over the runners and the spectators, including the entire 26.2-mile marathon route.

In 2017, Boston police began using PARC drones from now defunct Aria Insights, formerly known as CyPhy Works, to scan crowds in certain locations and help thwart low-level attacks.


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