A California drone pilot charged with violating TFRs over NFL stadiums in 2017 will make his initial appearance in federal court next week. Tracey Michael Mapes, a former freelance television cameraman from North Highlands, California, is charged with flying a modified DJI drone during NFL games over Levi’s Stadium and the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, both in the San Francisco Bay area, and dropping leaflets.
In the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, airspace over and within three miles of NFL stadiums is classified as “national defense airspace” on game days by the FAA. Violators face sentences up to one year of incarceration and fines to $100,000 per incident.
According to the criminal complaint filed against Mapes, he modified his drone with a special-built compartment to drop the leaflets, which decried alleged government media manipulation and claimed that television stations were awash in “prostitutes and felons.” Jeff Harp, a security analyst for KPIX TV in San Francisco told the station in May, “There’s some mental health issues involved here.”
But Mapes disagreed, saying that his actions were justified by First Amendment protections guaranteeing free speech. Mapes also allegedly dropped leaflets over television stations and public ceremonies in Sacramento.