The 2023 college football season officially starts later this week, but during one early season game last weekend between New Mexico State and the University of Massachusetts, a drone caused a game delay of a few minutes until it was no longer above the stadium.

Although the motive of the flight is unknown at this time, and no information is currently available on whether a suspect was apprehended, drones pose a significant threat to the safety and security of large mass gatherings such as sporting events.

In the United States, flight restrictions for crewed and uncrewed aircraft exist 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

The flight restrictions begin one hour before the scheduled start time and end one hour after the event’s scheduled end time.  The TFR has the following dimensions:

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

All drone pilots must review flight restrictions before flying in any location. To aid drone pilots in identifying airspace constraints, the Federal Aviation Administration has collaborated with Aloft to develop a dedicated smartphone app named B4UFly. This app is accessible at no cost on the iOS App Store and the Google Play Store for Android devices. The information is also available on the Aloft website at- Aloft B4UFly. Other popular applications used include DroneBuddy, and OpenSky, among many others.

Earlier this year, two individuals from the Cincinnati area, Dailon Dabney and Travis Lenhoff, admitted to violating Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs) by operating drones over different sports events in 2022. Dabney flew his drone over a Cincinnati Bengals playoff game in January, while Lenhoff flew his drone over the Opening Day event for the Cincinnati Reds in April. Both defendants pleaded guilty to their actions.

Post Image- Screenshot of the drone that delayed the University of Massachusetts vs New Mexico State college football game (Image Credit: ESPN)