Perhaps you were hoping to catch some breathtaking aerial footage of the running of the 141st Kentucky Derby a few weeks ago with your shiny new Phantom 3? Or maybe the arrival of spring has you pining to throw that new hobbyist drone up over the nearest MLB stadium on game day?
If I may, please allow me a word of caution: Don’t do it.
FAA has gone to great lengths – most recently this past February during the Super Bowl in Arizona and a few weeks ago at the prestigious PGA Masters Tournament, among others – to ensure that UAV enthusiasts are aware they are not permitted to enter the (temporarily) restricted airspace over large sporting events, regardless of the intent of the flight, according to an FAA spokesperson.
“Many of the restrictions result from laws passed by Congress after the 9/11 terror attacks,” said the FAA spokesperson in a recent email exchange with DroneLife. “The FAA bars unauthorized aircraft from flying over NFL regular- and post-season football games, NCAA college games in stadiums seating 30,000 or more fans, Major League Baseball games and many NASCAR, Indy Car, and Champ Series events. We consider requests for Temporary Flight Restrictions from other events on a case-by-case basis… Event organizers can submit request for FAA airspace waivers at https://waivers.faa.gov.”
Specifically, FAA’s “Sporting Event Temporary Flight Restriction FDC NOTAM 4/3621” states: “Pursuant to 49 USC 40103(b), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) classifies the airspace defined in this NOTAM as ‘National Defense Airspace’. Any person who knowingly or willfully violates the rules pertaining to operations in this airspace may be subject to certain criminal penalties under 49 USC 46307. Pilots… may be intercepted, detained and interviewed by law enforcement/security personnel.”
The FAA spokesperson stated that, although concerns surrounding the possible use of a UAV in a domestic terror incident is the main purpose of defining and enforcing “Drone No Fly Zones” over our nation’s top sporting fields, there are other concerns as well.
“Flying a UAS over a large crowd could pose a hazard to people and property on the ground,” FAA explains. As if to back up this claim, a man from Marblehead, MA lost control of his drone over a parade this passed weekend only to have it land on a bystander. “Besides possibly landing a violator in jail,” the spokesperson said, “flying an unmanned aircraft over a crowded event could result in an FAA civil penalty for “careless and reckless” operation of an aircraft.”
According to the FDC NOTAM 4/3621 rule referenced above, violators of the airspace restrictions could potentially face – in addition to FAA civil penalties – local or state criminal charges as well. These may include: reckless endangerment, operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence, trespassing and even assault (if the drone were to cause some form of bodily injury to a spectator as it did in Marblehead).
And while incidents similar to the crash landing of a Phantom 2 on the White House lawn by an off-duty government worker are likely to increase as consumer-grade UAV technology becomes cheaper and easier to use, the FAA has yet to catch anyone brazen enough to violate the sports stadium statute – though not for lack of trying.
“We have not yet assessed any civil penalties for violating the sporting events Temporary Flight Restrictions,” says FAA.
Another word of caution: Don’t Be That Guy.
Seriously, you don’t want to be That Guy.