National Football League
NFL receives permission for use of drones, but not during games
National Football League

NFL receives permission for use of drones, but not during games

Published Sep. 24, 2015 5:34 p.m. ET

The NFL's sky-high popularity will now include drones.

The league has received permission from the Federal Aviation Administration for limited use of drones.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in an email to The Associated Press that the drones will not be used on the day of games; the league prohibits the use of drones on game day in stadiums and in parking lots.

McCarthy said NFL Films will be allowed to use drones and teams may film their own practices if they comply with local, state and federal guidelines.


"NFL Films will use the unique visual images captured by drones to enhance their filmmaking and storytelling," McCarthy said.

Drone crashes two days apart, at the U.S. Open in New York and before a Kentucky football game, made news earlier this month.

But over the past two years, more than 50 unmanned aircrafts have flown over Major League Baseball and NFL stadiums, coming and going quietly — usually controlled by a hobbyist who either lost control of the device or wanted a picture of a favorite team in action.

Last October, the FAA issued notice that it's illegal to fly drones near Major League Baseball, NFL and NCAA Division I college football games, and major auto races. Other sporting events can put their own bans in place. But the penalties for violating a ban — and who hands out those sentences — is still murky.

In the Kentucky case, campus police brought wanton endangerment charges against the owner of the wayward drone; at the U.S. Open, New York police brought similar charges against a high school science teacher who lost control of his drone.

In its notice about temporary flight restrictions at sporting events, the FAA lists reckless endangerment, operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence, trespassing and assault as possible criminal charges for unsanctioned drone use.

Among the dozens of uses for drones at sports facilities is attaching cameras to get before-impossible angles for the TV broadcasts. In January, ESPN cleared numerous regulatory hurdles so it could have drones with cameras follow skiers and snowboarders down the hill for the Winter X Games.

ESPN got approval only by assuring it would not fly the drones over spectators or in the air space of planes flying in and out of a nearby airport.

And Fox used a four-wheel robot with a camera strapped atop in its coverage of golf's U.S. Open in June.


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