A deluge of drones fly over Super Bowl stadium, despite ban

ATLANTA — The sky above the stadium that will host Sunday’s Super Bowl is being “inundated” with an alarming number of drones, raising the specter of injuries to tourists or others — or a possible collision with aircraft, the FBI said Friday.

That’s despite an ongoing restriction that bans the use of drones in the area of Mercedes-Benz Stadium downtown.

Officers on Thursday confiscated a half-dozen drones that were flown near the stadium, FBI spokesman Kevin Rowson said Friday at the agency’s Atlanta field office. The cases will be referred to federal prosecutors for possible charges; the drone pilots could face jail time and fines, Rowson said.

“If these drones go out of control — if a pilot loses control of one — they can go into a crowd and cause serious injuries,” Rowson said.

The potential for terrorism is also a concern.

“When we look up into the air and see a drone flying in the air, we have no idea if it’s friendly, or if it’s someone who has nefarious plans and it’s weaponized,” he added.

In recent days, multiple helicopters have been patrolling the air space above the stadium and surrounding area, often swooping below the tops of Atlanta’s downtown buildings as part of a massive security operation.

“A drone impact with a fixed-wing aircraft or a helicopter would be catastrophic,” FBI Special Agent John Cronier said.

Moreover, policing illegal drones is pulling officers away from other duties, Rowson said.

In December, hundreds of flights were canceled and more than 100,000 people were stranded or delayed after drones were spotted near the runway at Gatwick Airport outside London.

Last month, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines pilots encountered a drone around 3,500 feet above Teterboro, N.J. That resulted in dozens of delays at nearby Newark Liberty International Airport.

Congressman supports kneeling: U.S. Rep. John Lewis believes sometimes people have to kneel before they can be heard so he supports NFL players who want to peacefully demonstrate against police brutality and social injustice.

“There’s nothing wrong with kneeling,” Lewis said during a visit to his congressional district, which is hosting Super Bowl LIII. “Before we marched from Selma to Montgomery, on March 7, 1965, we knelt. We prayed. … We knelt, and when we said, ‘Amen,’ we stood and we started walking.”

Former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick helped start a wave of demonstrations by kneeling during the national anthem to raise awareness to police brutality, racial inequality and other social issues.

Entertainers for the Super Bowl halftime show have been getting criticized for aligning with the NFL. Maroon 5, the featured halftime show, canceled its news conference earlier this week.

Nantz’s busy schedule: Jim Nantz, the lead announcer for CBS Sports for 34 years, Is calling four major championships in a span of 106 days for the first time.

Nantz calls his fifth Super Bowl on Sunday. That will be followed by the NCAA Men’s Final Four and the Masters in April. What will be new this year is the PGA Championship moving from August to May.

“I’m trying not to look to far ahead, but it is an exhilarating stretch,” Nantz said in a phone interview. “It sounds a little overwhelming, but there are many outstanding events coming up.”

First up after the Super Bowl: Next week’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/sports/article/A-deluge-of-drones-fly-over-Super-Bowl-stadium-13582491.php.

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