Unauthorized Drone Delays MLB Game

Unauthorized Drone Delays MLB Game

Professional sports in general is having a rough go of it in 2020. For that matter, so are college athletes and when you get right down to it, most Americans and the worldwide population is struggling with COVID-19.

That is not the only thing bothering major league baseball recently.

Last night’s game between the (Minnesota) Twins and (Pittsburg) Pirates was delayed not by rain, but an unauthorized drone flying over Target Field. The game was delayed nine minutes. The incursion happened during the top of the fifth inning with the home team in the field, and leading the game 5-1. Jose Berrios was on the mound for the Twins.

“That was really crazy. I’ve never seen that before,” Berrios told reporters after the game. “In my mind, I said: ‘Really? That has to happen right now when I’m pitching?’ I just tried to keep focused.”

A funny thing happened on the way to the bullpen. Relief pitchers in the pen tried to hit the drone with baseballs, but could not strike it out of the sky. Umpires talked with team managers and MLB security staff. Before long, the drone departed.

“Definitely a 2020 moment right there,” Twins Manager Rocco Baldelli said.

Unmanned drones are prohibited from flying within three nautical miles of any MLB stadium. It is not lawful for an unauthorized person to shoot the drone from the sky, but nothing is unlawful about baseballs being thrown at the unmanned aircraft.

The unauthorized flight is being investigated by MLB and Minneapolis police.

“Under FAA rules, Target Field is restricted airspace during a game,” said Matt Hoy, Twins senior vice president of operations. “It was just a small drone, and hopefully just a fan wanting to take pictures, but for security reasons, MLB doesn’t allow any drones around the park.”

Drone pilots can be fined by the government. In 2016, a Vice investigation found that the punishments vary widely. Most of the violators discovered by Vice were fined between $1,100 and $2,200, though the FAA offered to settle for much less “if it receives pushback” in the form of an appeal by the pilot.

In May 2014, Vice found, a man was fined $1,100 for flying a drone over New York Mets, Citi Field. The fine was reduced to $500. That same year, a man flew a drone over Texas Memorial Stadium during a college-football game between Texas and North Texas, resulting in a $1,100 fine that eventually was reduced to $800. Before an Alabama-Mississippi State football game in November 2015, a man flew a drone that “descended into a parking lot and struck a pedestrian just before it fell to the ground.” His fine of $1,100 was reduced to $900.

In May 2017, a drone flew over a Padres-Diamondbacks game in San Diego and crashed into fans in the stands, where one fan got a peculiar souvenir:

In 2015, at the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York, a man lost control of the drone he was piloting and it crashed into a bank of empty seats during a women’s singles match at Louis Armstrong Stadium. NYPD charged a Brooklyn science teacher with reckless endangerment, a misdemeanor, and two violations involving unlawful operation of a drone.

About the Author

Ralph C. Jensen is editor-in-chief of Security Today magazine.

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