A West Palm Beach man is facing charges of violating national defense air space during Super Bowl LV. Thirty-three-year-old Kevin Jonathan Canty faces a maximum penalty of one year in federal prison if convicted under the national defense air space statute.
According to the complaint, the Federal Aviation Administration issued a Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) covering an area extending around Tampa where Super Bowl LV was held. The air space was temporarily restricted to prevent any type of terrorist attack on the stadium. However, several Tampa residents who were used to flying their drones whenever they pleased, found out the hard way that the TFR was in place. Canty flew his drone in an area that was with the TFR. Hence, he broke the law and now faces charges.
At the time, Canty told police everything they will need to convict him on this charge. He said he was an FAA-licensed remote pilot and that he was aware that the TFR was in place for the Super Bowl. Nonetheless, Canty flew his drone over downtown Tampa where vehicles and people were moving around and congregating. The FAA saw the drone, traced it back to Canty, and then formally charged him with violating the airspace.
What Will Happen to Canty?
With due deference to Canty’s side of the story and the seriousness of the charges, Canty will likely not face prison time. Instead, he will be fined for violating the airspace and may face a suspension or revocation of his FAA license. Canty did not do himself any favors by telling police that he was aware that the TFR was in place, but it can be very difficult to know what space is covered by the TFR and what isn’t. The drone’s flight path provided evidence, according to the FBI who investigated the claim, that the drone encroached on protected airspace.
Canty can say that he was aware of the TFR, but didn’t know specifically that certain areas around downtown were covered. Canty may have believed that only the area surrounding the stadium was covered. For obvious reasons, federal authorities don’t want private citizens to fly drones over public events. It frightens citizens and might be linked to a credible terrorist threat.
What Drone Operators Know
The FAA goes out of its way to ensure drone operators know about ordinances that are in effect. It’s not unusual for drone operators to live around airports or somewhere else where flights would be restricted. The FAA provides an app for drone operators that keep them abreast of controlled airspace. Drone operators can get licenses to fly in this airspace, but the app lets them know where they can and cannot fly. The app, called B4UFLY shows off-limits zones. It would be expected that a drone operator would use the app to ensure they were in compliance with temporary no-fly zones during a major event like the Super Bowl.
Talk to a West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Attorney
If your drone has violated protected U.S. airspace, then you need a West Palm Beach criminal attorney. Call The Skier Law Firm, P.A. today to learn more about how we can help.