A drone—or, if you wish, a fancy RC helicopter with a camera—flew into the San Diego Padres’ park on Sunday afternoon. It got the attention of the announcers. It also got the attention of the fans.
San Diego police caught up with the drone operator, whom they described as a man in his 20s (if you can believe it). Police Lt. Scott Wahl told Fox 5 the wayward drone’s pilot was apologetic.
“When they told him to bring the drone back he said he didn’t have any control over it and that it was flying on its own. Some point after that, the drone had crashed,” said Wahl. “He felt horrible. He did not intend on hurting anybody.”
San Diego voted in April for new drone regulations that would allow them to fine the still-unidentified drone pilot, but they don’t go into effect until next month. City officials described the new regulations as an overlay of already-existing Federal Aviation Administration rules, which have prohibited flights above stadiums since 2014. Fox 5 says the FAA could fine the pilot up to $1,437.
Cities are increasingly punishing drone operators for reckless flying or getting too close to prohibited zones. In Philadelphia, for example, rules similar to San Diego’s went into effect last August. Since then in the city, drone pilots have been arrested near anti-Donald Trump protests and the NFL draft.
Sports Illustrated talked to the Padres and Major League Baseball and got statements.
“Our Security Department became aware of yesterday’s incident and we have been in touch with the local authorities. We are continuing to monitor the situation. Drones are prohibited items at all of our ballparks,” according to a Major League Baseball spokesperson.
Added Padres Chief Operating Officer Erik Greupner in a statement: “Guest safety at Petco Park is a top priority for the Padres. Sunday’s drone incident was immediately addressed by Padres’ security and the San Diego Police Department to ensure the safety of our guests. This incident highlights the dangers posed by unauthorized drone use in proximity to large public venues like Petco Park. The Padres vocally supported the City of San Diego’s recently enacted ordinance that enables SDPD to enforce the FAA’s restrictions on operating drones near large public venues.
This isn’t the first drone crash at the stadium, per a Padres official. When new drone legislation passed, Director of Security Leonard Davie told the San Diego Union-Tribune that “[i]n recent months, us at Petco have experienced drone sightings, landings and even crashes.”