FAA to UAS Operators: Do Not Go Anywhere Near Stadiums

Posted by Betsy Lillian on October 30, 2014 No Comments
Categories : Policy & Regulations

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has altered its regulations on aircraft operations near sporting events: Now included is a ban on unmanned aerial systems (UAS).

In a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM), FDC 4/3621, the agency says that ‘all aircraft operations, including parachute jumping, unmanned aircraft and remote controlled aircraft’ cannot fly within 3 miles or at a height less than 3,000 feet above “any stadium having a seating capacity of 30,000 or more people” from a time period of one hour before through one hour after a game.

This includes, the notice says, games for “Major League Baseball, National Football League, or NCAA Division One football.” The notice also includes “NASCAR Spring Cup, Indy Car, and champ series races, excluding qualifying and pre-race events.” If pilots violate the rules, the FAA says, they “may be intercepted, detained and interviewed by law enforcement/security personnel” and “subject to certain criminal penalties.”

The NOTAM acknowledges that any flights that are “conducted for operational purposes of any event, stadium or venue and broadcast coverage for the broadcast rights holder are authorized with an approved airspace waiver.” It adds that these regulations “do not apply to those aircraft authorized by and in contact with [air traffic control] for operational or safety of flight purposes, Department of Defense, law enforcement, and air ambulance flight operations.”

According to an Associated Press report, this notice was first made following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and then altered in 2009; however, UAS and remote-controlled aircraft were not included.

In this most recent alteration, the report says, the FAA originally only wanted to add a different web address but, in the process, decided to do more: include UAS in the notice.

An article from Brendan Schulman, special counsel at New York law firm Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP, points out that this change to the NOTAM “is potentially quite substantial,” as it applies to around 150 sporting venues in the country.

The updated notice follows several reports this year of UAVs flying near sports games, including during an NFL preseason game at the Carolina Panthers’ stadium in Charlotte, N.C.; a University of Texas Austin football game; and a Pittsburgh Pirates MLB game. The Tennessee Titans organization of the NFL recently spoke out and wrote to local police about creating more rules concerning UAS over sporting events to “fill in the gaps of existing policies.”

The FAA's complete NOTAM (FDC 4/3621) can be found here.

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