Covington man pleads guilty to flying drone over Reds Opening Day

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The Federal Aviation Administration means business, and one thing you are definitely not allowed to do is fly a drone over a professional sporting event.

Two local men found that out the hard way after pleading guilty in federal court to one count each of violating a Temporary Flight Restriction, per a release from the Southern District of Ohio’s U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Travis Lenhoff, 38, of Covington, flew his drone over a restricted area of Great American Ballpark during Reds Opening Day on April 12, 2022.

“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.”

The other incident happened during a Bengals game when 24-year-old Dailon Dabney of Cincinnati flew his drone over a Jan. 15, 2022, Bengals playoff game. Officials stated that he “flew his drone into the stadium and hovered over the players and portions of the stadium crowd.” He then posted the video to various social media sites.

Lenhoff and Dabney were both indicted by a federal grand jury in September of 2022. The crime they committed is considered a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison, one year of supervised release and a $100,000 fine.

“It is not worth risking federal criminal charges to illegally fly a drone over events like Reds and Bengals games. Even if there is no intent to harm, this conduct poses a direct risk to the players and the individuals in the stands,” said U.S. Attorney Kenneth Parker. “As we kickoff FC Cincinnati and Reds seasons this month, and look to summer concert season, we ask the public to refrain from using drones illegally over events.”

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The attorney’s office says that “any drone that weighs more than .55 pounds and less than 55 pounds must be registered with the FAA.” Both of the offenders had not registered their drones with the FAA and neither had a remote pilot certification.

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