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FAA investigating drone spotted flying above Pirates game at PNC Park

AP
A drone with a camera hanging from it flies over PNC Park during the baseball game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the New York Mets on Thursday, June 26, 2014, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

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By Margaret Harding
Friday, June 27, 2014, 4:21 p.m.
 

A drone that flew over PNC Park during a Pirates game has prompted an investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration, federal officials said on Friday.

Pirates staff saw the drone hover over the ballpark during Thursday evening's game and alerted police, team spokesman Brian Warecki said.

Officers working a security detail at the game spoke to the drone's owner on the PNC Park Riverwalk and told him he couldn't fly it over the park, public safety spokeswoman Sonya Toler said.

The unidentified man complied with the request, and police did not arrest him or issue any citations.

“The man was informed of the seriousness of the situation and warned that if he returned, he would face further police action,” Warecki said.

Fans on Twitter reported seeing the drone toward the end of the game, which the Pirates won 5-2.

Little boys cried “UFO, UFO,” but most fans were more impressed with what was happening on the field, rather than above it, said Kelsey Gundel, 21, of Scott. She attended the game and captured a short video, which she posted to Twitter, of part of the drone's flight.

“(Gregory) Polanco hit a home run, so everyone cared more about baseball, which is so Pittsburgh, “ Gundel said. “It was like, ‘Oh look, a drone,' and then back to caring about baseball.”

Polanco hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the fifth inning. The TV broadcast of the game showed the drone in flight and its apparent operator holding a control unit standing outside the stadium during the eighth inning.

The drone was a DJI Phantom model quadcopter carrying a GoPro camera. The quadcopter is available for about $600 online. GoPro cameras retail for about $300. Accessories could easily push the total price past $1,000.

Gundel said she noticed the drone flying over the river, then watched it as it hovered over the field for about five minutes.

“You couldn't miss it,” she said.

“I was really excited because I've never seen a drone before.”

The FAA said this week that unmanned model aircraft owners are permitted to fly the small aircraft without FAA approval for hobby or recreational use only, must keep them in sight and must avoid flying them over densely populated areas.

The FAA can fine the owners for violations.

Margaret Harding is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8519 or mharding@tribweb.com.

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