Drone Incidents Continue at Sporting Events

Even though there are drone restrictions already in place at some NCAA football, Major League Baseball (MLB), and National Football League (NFL) stadiums, incidents of game delays due to drones appear to be increasing.

In September, two Cincinnati area men were indicted by a Federal Grand Jury in the Southern District of Ohio for two separate illegal drone flights at an NFL game at Paul Brown Stadium and an MLB game at Great American Ballpark that occurred in January 2022 and April 2022.

Similar incidents have been reported throughout the United States at other venues throughout 2022.

As an example, two separate illegal drone flights were reported in the Seattle area during the weekend September 24-25, 2022.  On September 24th, a drone delayed the NCAA football game between the University of Washington and the Stanford Cardinal at Huskies Stadium.  A day later, a drone caused a delay during the NFL game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Atlanta Falcons.

In October, the MLB National League Division Series (NLDS) game between the San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers was delayed when a drone flew into Petco Park.

Although these illegal drone flights at the surface appear to be due to careless and clueless pilots, they represent a great safety risk to the players and fans who attend these sporting events.

“Leave Your Drone at Home” Safety Campaign

In an effort to educate fans and local communities about drone restrictions in and around stadiums, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Stadium Manager’s Association (SMA) created the “It’s Game/Race Day: Leave Your Drone at Home” safety campaign.

FAA and SMA Graphic- Be a Good Sport- Leave Your Drone at Home

The downloadable toolbox was created for stadium management team representatives to use for community outreach and media purposes.  The toolbox includes standard graphics files that can be customized with team colors if desired, sample social media copy, and copy for broadcasters and announcers.

We Are Not Playing- Leave Your Drone at Home Graphic

To communicate drone restrictions, the FAA issues a Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) at stadiums that seat 30,000 people or more for any of the following events:

  • Major League Baseball Game
  • National Football League Game
  • NCAA Division I Football Game
  • NASCAR Sprint Cup, Indy Car, and Champ Series Race

Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs)

The TFR begins one hour before the scheduled start time and ends one hour after the scheduled end time of the event.  The TFR has the following dimensions:

  • Three (3) nautical mile (NM) radius (5.56 km)
  • 3,000′ above ground level (AGL)

All drone pilots should check for flight restrictions prior to flying at any location.  To assist drone pilots with determining if there are airspace restrictions, the FAA, in partnership with Aloft, has created its own smartphone application called B4UFly.  The application is available for free in the App Store for iOS and Google Play Store for Android.

No Drone Sign- Race Day

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has also provided resources for sporting venue owners and operators to take proactive measures to improve their airspace awareness and security.  The informative document can be found here.