On Wednesday, authorities announced that a man had been officially charged on May 14th with violating two separate Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) areas during NFL football matches. Sacramento resident Tracy Michael Mapes, 56, is accused of flying his drone over a San Francisco 49ers game at Levi’s Stadium and dropping anti-media leaflets into the crowd on November 26, 2017. He is also accused of the same violation during a Raiders game at Oakland Stadium later that day.
Knowingly violating a TFR can result in serious legal and financial consequences. In this case, Mapes could face up to a year in prison and a $100,000 fine if convicted. TFRs are used by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to restrict aircraft operations within designated areas. The restrictions help facilitate national security measures. Natural disasters, presidential and other high-ranking official visits, and professional sporting events that are typically congested with people warrant TFRs.
Mapes has not publicly commented on the matter. According to police, his drone released leaflets containing content about free speech and personal views on television being corrupt. Most of the leaflets didn’t make it into the stadium or crowd at the 49ers game, due to high winds and rain. No one was injured.
Surveillance cameras were able to identify the operator and record his license plate number as he drove away from Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. Detectives alerted their counterparts in Oakland ahead of the Raiders game. Mapes released leaflets into Oakland Coliseum and, once again, no one was affected. Officers located his vehicle as he was leaving, cited him with misdemeanor charges, and released him.
TFRs begin several hours before the start of a professional game or other major event and continue for hours after it concludes. It is important for remote pilots to check Notices to Airmen (NOTAM) or SkyVector before embarking on a flight. Some prefer to use an Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) application such as Kittyhawk, Skyward, or AirMap.