San Jose

Drone Pilot Charged With Violating National Defense Airspace by Flying Drone Over NFL Games

A Sacramento County man has been charged in federal court in San Jose with violating national defense airspace by flying a drone that dropped anti-media leaflets over National Football League games in Santa Clara and Oakland in 2017.

Tracy Michael Mapes, 56, of North Highlands, was accused in a federal criminal complaint filed Tuesday.

He is alleged to have flown his drone over a San Francisco 49ers-Seattle Seahawks game in Santa Clara on Nov. 26, 2017, and over an Oakland Raiders-Denver Broncos game in Oakland later that same day.

An affidavit filed with the complaint by U.S. Transportation Department special agent Reggie Lee included an example of the flyers, which alleged that prostitutes and felons had infiltrated television newsrooms and local municipal politics.

The Federal Aviation Administration has designated the airspace above stadiums during NFL and Major League Baseball games as "national defense airspace" and has prohibited all civilian aircraft, including drones, from flying within three nautical miles of a stadium during games.

If Mapes is convicted, the federal crime carries a potential sentence of up to one year in jail and a $100,000 fine.

Mapes is due to make an initial appearance before a federal magistrate in San Jose on June 4.

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