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Fly a drone near a stadium and the FAA could send you to jail

Fly a drone near a stadium and the FAA could send you to jail


The new rule "clarifies" that it's illegal to navigate near racetracks or sports stadiums

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Well before drones were a hobby, in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, the FAA created a rule designating stadiums as "national defense airspace." Between an hour before and an hour after an event, the agency said, aircraft were not allowed less than 3,000 feet above and within three miles of games. If anyone was wondering what "aircraft" entailed, the FAA has clarified: yes, that means drones.

Stadiums are "national defense airspace"

Notice to Airmen No. FDC 4/3621, issued Monday, applies to MLB, NFL, and NCAA games, as well as some racing events, where more than 30,000 people are present. Although the FAA has had the law on the books for years, it was updated this week to specifically mention "unmanned aircraft and remote controlled aircraft." Breaking the rule could result in a fine or up to a year of imprisonment.

You could see the rule as part of the FAA's larger campaign to regulate drones, which continues to lag behind growing numbers of drone pilots. (The agency has already flexed its muscles in this jurisdiction, banning a stadium from delivering a ball for kickoff.) Worldwide, there has been at least one major incident caused by a drone in a stadium: a soccer match between Serbia and Albania was derailed when a drone flew onto the field carrying an Albanian flag.