Drone Pilot Arrested for Dropping Leaflets Over Football Stadiums

If you really need to ruin the game by flying your drone into the stadium, just know that you’ll be arrested afterward.

byMarco Margaritoff|
Drone Pilot Arrested for Dropping Leaflets Over Football Stadiums


A drone pilot illegally flew his unmanned aerial vehicle over two football stadiums in California and was subsequently arrested on Sunday. According to Fox News, this resulted in federal, state and local law enforcement investigations. Unfortunately, this is nothing new. 

We’ve reported on drone pilots trespassing on restricted property before, even interfering with search and rescue operations and the efforts of firefighters. What is new, however, is the motivation behind this particular incident. Reportedly, the pilot used his UAV to disperse pro-free speech leaflets that warned about how unreliable television media has become.

According to The San Francisco Chronicle, this illegal drone-related stunt began at Levi’s Stadium during the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks game. The drone released leaflets onto an unsuspecting crowd. The drone then made its way to Oakland’s Coliseum stadium to do the same during the Oakland Raiders and Denver Broncos game. Even worse, the stadiums are within five miles of an airport.

Ariana Rivera, a San Francisco 49ers fan, told ABC7News that “If they are dropping leaflets, they can drop anything really, if you think about it, and it’s kind of scary to think that someone can just fly something over during the game and nobody can really stop it.” Rivera makes a good point and has very valid reason for concern. 

In the past few months, corrections officers at several prisons around the country have had to contend with unwelcome aerial visitors flying in and out of correctional facilities. Discussions seem to have begun, regarding the best possible way of combating these incidents. Some argue that officials should be armed with anti-drone guns, while others prefer strong geo-fencing that would ground any unauthorized UAVs from entering a particular airspace.

According to Fox News, a majority of the leaflets blew away in the wind, never making it into the hands of football fans in attendance. According to The San Francisco Chronicle, Dan Moreno, a Santa Clara Police Lieutenant, said the drone operator was spurred on by “something about free speech and his belief that television stations are corrupt.”  

It’s important to protect people from the increasing potential of drones being used as weapons. As Rivera pointed out, anyone who can afford a UAV could simply attach anything to it, and drop it onto a crowd. Perhaps geofencing around stadiums would be a good start. Whatever the solutions may turn out to be, they should include educating people on the hazards and legalities of engaging in an activity like this. In other words, don’t ruin the game for anyone disinterested in your cause, especially because you’ll be arrested shortly after.