CINCINNATI – Two Cincinnati-area men have been charged with federal crimes alleging they illegally flew drones over professional sporting events in Cincinnati.
A federal grand jury has charged the men in separate incidents involving Cincinnati Bengals and Cincinnati Reds events.
The Cincinnati Bengals hosted an NFL playoff game at Paul Brown Stadium on Jan. 15. During the game, it is alleged that Dailon Dabney, 24, of Cincinnati, illegally flew his drone into the stadium and hovered over the players and portions of the stadium crowd. Dabney allegedly recorded his drone flight and posted the video to social media sites and YouTube.
April 12 was Opening Day for the Cincinnati Reds’ 2022 season and featured the first game of the season at Great American Ballpark. It is alleged that Travis Lenhoff, 38, of Northern Kentucky, flew a drone into the restricted flight area of Great American Ballpark during the Opening Day festivities.
“This is a growing problem that poses a direct risk to the players and the individuals in the stands,” said U.S. Attorney Kenneth L. Parker. “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. If you attend these events like Reds games and Bengals games – leave the drones at home.”
“Flying a drone over a stadium full of fans is dangerous and illegal without the proper FAA training, licensing, and approved flight plan,” stated FBI Cincinnati Special Agent in Charge J. William Rivers. “We will continue to work with the FAA and local police to investigate these incidents when proper FAA protocols and procedures are not followed.”
Any drone that weighs more than .55 pounds and less than 55 pounds must be registered with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Dabney’s and Lenhoff’s drones are not registered with the FAA and they do not have a remote pilot certification.
Each defendant is charged with operating an unregistered drone, which is a federal crime punishable by up to three years in prison. Dabney is also charged with violating a temporary flight restriction (punishable by up to one year in prison).
Dabney and Lenhoff each have an initial appearance scheduled at 1:30pm on Oct. 12 in Cincinnati.
Kenneth L. Parker, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio; J. William Rivers, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Cincinnati Division; the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA); Cincinnati Interim Police Chief Teresa A. Theetge and Hamilton County Sheriff Charmaine McGuffey announced the charges. Assistant United States Attorney Timothy S. Mangan is representing the United States in this case.
Indictments merely contain allegations, and defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.