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Fly a Drone Near Stadium, Go to Jail: FAA

By Daniel Taylor, Esq. | Last updated on

The Federal Aviation Administration is cracking down on the use of drones near major sporting events.

Regulating the airspace around sporting events isn't new. Following the 9/11 attacks in 2001, the FAA designated stadiums as national defense airspace, prohibiting aircraft from coming within 3 miles or under 3,000 feet of stadiums during games, reports The Verge. But the agency recently clarified how this rule affects the use of remote controlled and unmanned drones.

What does the FAA's recent rule update mean for drone enthusiasts considering bringing their RC aircraft to a sporting event?

New Rule Specifically Mentions 'Unmanned and Remote Controlled Aircraft'

In its most recent notice to airmen, the FAA has included "unmanned and remote controlled aircraft" in the law requiring aircraft stay far away from sporting events. This rule applies to events held at stadiums with a seating capacity of 30,000 or more from an hour before until an hour after the scheduled time of an event.

This prohibition includes "all aircraft activities" (including parachuting) and applies to both regular and postseason MLB, NFL, and NCAA Division I football games as well professional racing events such as NASCAR and Indy Car. Under federal law, conducting aircraft activities, which now includes the use of drones, during such an event without first obtaining a waiver from the FAA could result in a sentence of up to a year in prison, a fine, or both.

Commercial Drone Ban Overturned

The FAA's attempts to limit the use of remote controlled drones included a ban on use of drones for commercial purposes by anyone without a special certification. A judge overturned that rule earlier this year, citing the FAA's failure to follow the proper rulemaking process.

Drones are, however, temporarily banned from National Parks. Following several incidents in National Parks in which drone users harassed animals or endangered other park visitors, the National Park Service banned the use of drones over Park Service land while it crafts new regulations.

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