Feb. 7 (UPI) -- When you have a history of illegally filming your opponents during a seven-year span, you don't get the benefit of the doubt.
The Falcons were practicing on its field near the Rice University campus when security noticed an uninvited flying object. The drone was grounded by the security officers who later determined it was sent from the nearby residential neighborhood, according to MMQB's Peter King.
Many drones are equipped with cameras.
ESPN's Don Van Natta and Seth Wickersham wrote a long report in 2015 about the Patriots' history of filming 40 games of its opponents from 2000 through 2007.
Drones were banned from 4 p.m. to midnight on Feb. 5 within 35 miles of NRG Stadium, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA also banned flights over the Houston facility.
"Drones are becoming much more popular, but they also pose certain safety risks," said FAA administrator Michael Huerta. "We're working closely with our safety and security partners to spread the No Drone Zone message as widely as possible."
NFL teams received permission from the FAA for the limited use of drones in 2015. Teams are allowed to employ drones over their own practices as long as they comply with local, state, and federal laws. It is illegal to fly drones near Major League Baseball, NFL, NCAA Division I college football games, and major auto races.
Another mysterious incident occurred before the contest, when offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan lost his playbook and his bag. The Falcons' offensive game plan for the Super Bowl ended up in the hands of San Francisco Examiner columnist Art Spader, who mistakenly picked it up. Shanahan was able to retrieve his bag from Spader.
"Multiple teams called Seattle, unsolicited, with advice on how to secure the team's practices for the Super Bowl," a Sports Illustrated report said. "Their message was clear: You're not playing John Fox's Broncos again. You're facing Bill Belichick and the Patriots. You never know who might be watching."
The Seahawks responded by hiring extra guards, who secured a nearby 1,400-foot hill and scanned parking areas and other areas with vantage points of the team's drills. Seattle lost that Super Bowl 28-24 to New England on a last-minute interception.
When the NFL punished the Patriots for Deflategate, it referenced the filming incident as a reason for harsher discipline.
"Here, there are several factors that merit strong consideration in assessing discipline," the league wrote in a 2015 statement. "The first is the club's prior record. In 2007 the club and several individuals were sanctioned for videotaping signals of opposing defensive coaches in violation of the Constitution and Bylaws. Under the Integrity of the Game Policy, this prior violation of competitive rules was properly considered in determining the discipline in this case."
The Patriots have denied taping its opponents' practices and walkthroughs.