A Northern California man accused of flying a drone over two NFL games this weekend and dropping political leaflets has been arrested in a case that raised concerns about security at professional sports events, police said Monday.
Federal and local laws prohibit flying drones near football games, and authorities are examining additional ways to prevent the unmanned aircraft from hovering over crowds of tens of thousands of people after the flights Sunday, Santa Clara police Lt. Dan Moreno said. He declined to discuss the security measures being considered.
The Federal Aviation Administration also is investigating, spokesman Ian Gregor said.
Police cited Tracy Michael Mapes, 55, with misdemeanor charges and released him after a drone was spotted over Levi’s Stadium as the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks played.
The drone released fliers criticizing television news media during the second quarter of the game, but most of the papers blew out of the stadium during the windy, rainy game, Moreno said. It didn’t disrupt play.
Surveillance cameras helped detectives track the drone to its operator, who was seen driving away from the Santa Clara stadium and identified by a license plate, Moreno said.
Santa Clara detectives called their counterparts in Oakland in anticipation that Mapes would go there next as the Raiders hosted the Denver Broncos.
Oakland officers spotted a drone over Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum and it dropped the fliers again, Moreno said. That game also was not affected. Mapes was arrested shortly afterward while leaving in his vehicle.
Mapes didn’t respond to an email inquiry sent through Facebook.