CINCINNATI (WCMH) – A Cincinnati man accused of flying into the Bengals’ stadium mid-game is just one of two people facing prison time over illegal drone operations at sporting events.
Dailon Dabney, 24, of Cincinnati, illegally flew his drone on Jan. 15 into Paycor Stadium. The drone went over players and parts of the stadium crowd, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Ohio. Dabney posted footage of his illegal flight on social media and a Youtube channel called BrickByBrickFilms.
The pilot, who U.S. Attorney Kenneth L. Parker said did not register his drone with the Federal Aviation Administration and was not properly certified, welcomed the attention he received from federal agents.
“Who wants this faa video ?? [sic] 100 likes and I’ll drop it,” Dabney – acting as another account, BiggangGaming – commented on the Bengals flight video. “I have ring camera footage of the faa and fbi coming to my house !! Just thinking wen should I drop it [sic].”
Dabney now faces charges of operating an unregistered drone and violating a temporary flight restriction. If convicted, the two federal crimes could land him four years combined in prison, according to Parker.
Any drone pilot who wants to fly in controlled airspace – usually expanding for several miles around airports and commonly over cities – or fly for commercial work or pay, has to get a Part 107 certification. The little plastic card issued by the FAA is much like a driver’s license for unmanned aircraft. Alongside the certification, pilots with drones that weigh between 0.55 and 55 pounds also have to register their drones, much like registering a car at the BMV.
Part 107-certified or not, the FAA has also for years warned pilots not to fly drones inside of or within three miles of stadiums during a game.
“This is a growing problem that poses a direct risk to the players and the individuals in the stands,” Parker said. “Even if the operator does not have an intent to harm, the operator could easily lose control and injure someone. Moreover, the sight of a drone flying overhead could lead to a panic in the crowd.”
A Kentucky drone owner, 38-year-old Travis Lenhoff, also flew an unmanned aircraft on April 12 over the Cincinnati Reds’ season-opening game at the Great American Ballpark, according to Parker. Federal prosecutors charged him with operating an unregistered drone. Both Dabney and Lenhoff have an initial appearance in court scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Oct. 12.
Other drone pilots have seen charges for illegal activities in 2022, including when a Texas man used his aircraft to drop drugs into a federal prison.