Drone operators violating no-fly Superbowl zone “to be prosecuted”

US law enforcement officers are due to make a number of arrests over the next few days following the confiscation of at least six drones which overflew the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta before the 2019 Super Bowl LIII.

According to The Verge news reports: “The pilots could face “significant fine and/or jail time” for violating the temporary flight restriction, though no arrests have been made, according to Kevin Rowson, the public affairs specialist for the FBI’s Atlanta field office.

The Atlanta field office of the FBI bureau tweeted on 1 February 2019:

#FBI Atlanta is reiterating the message that #ATLSB53 is a  #NODRONEZONE after six were confiscated yesterday for violating the current TFR in place,”

The Federal Aviation Administration set up a no-fly zone around the stadium several days before the event. According to the FAA website:

“The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will establish a Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) on game day that will prohibit drones within a 30-nautical-mile radius of the stadium up to 17,999 feet in altitude. The TFR will be in place from 5:30 p.m. to 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time. Some general aviation operations may be allowed within the TFR provided they meet specific security and operational requirements.The FAA also will restrict drone flights for one nautical mile around the stadium up to an altitude of 1,000 feet on January 31, February 1 and 2 from 10 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time, and on February 3 from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., at which time the TFR for the game takes effect.  Further details are available in the drone TFRs. Please see NOTAM numbers 9/5085 and 9/5087-5089. Pilots and drone operators who enter the TFRs without permission could face civil penalties that exceed USD20,000 and potential criminal prosecution for flying drones in the TFR.”

A number of counter-UAS systems are understood to have been deployed during the event. Echodyne reportedly filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to operate two experimental radars “in the immediate vicinity” of Mercedes-Benz Stadium to “alert security personnel, including federal officers, of any unidentified drone activity during Super Bowl LIII”, though it has not been confirmed that the systems were deployed at the stadium for the event.

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