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Drone pilot flew into Tampa’s restricted Super Bowl airspace, Feds say

A criminal complaint accuses Henry Alejandro Jimenez of flying a drone over Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park.
College students study in the sun while people on the other side of the Hillsborough River take part in Super Bowl 55 activities Friday, Feb. 5, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. The city is hosting Sunday's Super Bowl football game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
College students study in the sun while people on the other side of the Hillsborough River take part in Super Bowl 55 activities Friday, Feb. 5, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. The city is hosting Sunday's Super Bowl football game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel) [ CHARLIE RIEDEL | AP ]
Published Feb. 5

TAMPA — Federal agents have accused a man of flying a drone into protected air space this week in violation of Super Bowl security restrictions in Tampa.

Henry Alejandro Jimenez, 33, of Orlando, faces a charge of violating national defense airspace, according to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court.

The Federal Aviation Administration this week imposed a temporary airspace restriction for areas in and around downtown Tampa as part of security measures leading up to Super Bowl LV.

On Wednesday, a pair of FBI agents spotted a drone flying in the area of the Barrymore Hotel Tampa Riverwalk on Fortune Street. They found Jimenez standing on a sidewalk operating a remote-control device attached to an iPhone near a parking lot at 1015 N Franklin St., according to the complaint. They told Jimenez to land the drone, which he did.

Jimenez, a licensed drone pilot, explained that he was aware of the airspace restrictions, having received an email about it a week earlier, according to the complaint. When he turned on the drone that day, a warning about the restriction appeared on his iPhone.

“Flight restrictions: Your aircraft has entered an authorization zone that you are permitted to enter,” the warning read.

The warning offered two options: “I am qualified to fly in this zone,” and “I agree to bear full responsibility for my flight in this zone.”

Jimenez selected the latter option, unlocking his drone for flight, the complaint states.

But Jimenez did not have permission to fly in the restricted space, agents noted, and as a licensed drone pilot he was presumably aware of the restriction, the complaint states.

A map of the drone’s flight path, recorded on the iPhone and included in the complaint, showed the device moving from downtown to the area of Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park, which is hosting events related to the Super Bowl.

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