FBI Phoenix
Brooke Brennan and Kevin Smith
(623) 466-1999
May 20, 2021

FBI Seeking Information on Illegal Drone Activity Near Tucson

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is seeking to identify the person(s) responsible for illegally flying a drone near a U.S. Customs and Border Protection helicopter. On February 9, 2021, at 10:30 p.m., employees of CBP informed the Tucson Police Department that a drone was flying dangerously close to their helicopter. Over the next few hours, multiple law enforcement agencies worked to locate the drone’s operator but were unsuccessful. The drone appeared to launch from an area about 5 miles south of Tucson and flew across Tucson and north over Marana. No one was injured and no other similar incidents have been reported involving this specific drone.

In 2018, The Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act included 18 USC 39B, which federally criminalizes “Unsafe Operation of Unmanned Aircraft.” Specifically, knowing or reckless interference or disruption of a manned aircraft, and the operation of unmanned aircraft in close proximity to airports. While the drone(s) did not come into direct contact with an airplane or cause a pilot to make an evasive maneuver, the actions are illegal and extremely dangerous.

Anyone flying a drone as prohibited by law can face federal criminal charges, fines, and imprisonment. It is possible the drone operator(s) are not aware they are violating the law. We encourage anyone with information to assist in this investigation to contact the FBI at 623-466-1999. Tips can also be reported to tips.fbi.gov.

When operating a drone, the FBI encourages the public to abide by federal and state laws. You can learn more at faa.gov/uas/.