Drone pilot arrested for dropping leaflets over NFL games
A drone enthusiast with a strong dislike of television news was arrested Sunday afternoon after using a drone to float anti-media leaflets over NFL crowds in both Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara and the Coliseum in Oakland.
The suspect, who was not immediately identified, sent his drone soaring over the Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara during the second quarter of the game between the 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks, police said. Later he hightailed it to Oakland where he deployed the drone over the Raiders game against the Denver Broncos, according to police.
“It was something about free speech and his belief that television stations are corrupt,” said Santa Clara Police Lt. Dan Moreno.
It is illegal to fly a drone within five miles of an airport, and both Levi’s Stadium and the Coliseum are within five miles of airports. In addition, Santa Clara has a city ordinance that prohibits flying a drone within 500 yards of the facility, Moreno said.
As a propaganda-distribution vehicle, the drone was ineffective, according to authorities. Most of the drone-dropped leaflets were carried away by the wind, landing far from the hands of the football fans they were intended for.
Still, drones have the potential to disrupt both airplanes and lower-flying helicopters.
“If one of them were to crash, the blades are sharp — we certainly don’t want them hitting the crowd or the players,” said Moreno. “It’s kind of up to the abilities of the drone operators and there is no way of knowing if they know what they are doing. A stadium is not a good place to fly a drone.”
Police opened an investigation, along with federal, state and local law enforcement, including the FBI, CHP and neighboring county and city agencies.