One of the hottest new trends in technology today are civilian drones. However, these drones are becoming quite a problem, as amateurs are flying these rogue drones over football stadiums full of fans, which could impose a safety threat, according to the Federal Aviation Administration as reported by International Business Times.
The FAA reveals that there are investigations underway of drones that have violated airspace restrictions this fall. In fact, the FAA has such concerns that they updated a 2009 notice “criminalizing the flying of drones near or over sports stadiums during events,” as reported by the Washington Post.
The drones began causing a real concern at college and NFL football games since the season began in August. The Washington Post reports that these small drones are being used by amateurs who have forked out an average of $500, attached a camera, record the sporting events, and post them on the Internet.
While the remote-controlled drones are somewhat easy to fly, the Washington Post reveals FAA officials’ and aviation safety experts concerns that “the blades of the drones can be lethal,” posing a serious threat to the safety of the people inside the stadiums.
The drones are compact enough to discreetly fit into a backpack, yet can reach flying levels of higher than 1,000 feet.
Marc Lovicott, a campus police spokesman at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, recalls a recent incident at their October 11 game against Illinois, where a quadcopter soared into the 80,000-seat Camp Randall Stadium, whirring over the student section, as per MSN.
“It’s an absolute safety concern. You never know what might be carried along with something like that.”
Most drones have a wingspan of less than four feet, but their speed can be hazardous at 50 mph. FAA and safety experts say that in a crowded area, such as stadiums, it is just an accident waiting to happen.
Amateurs can quickly lose control of the aircraft, which could easily result in injuries. A perfect example of this would be the tragic incident in which a 19-year-old male was flying a drone helicopter at a city park in Brooklyn when he lost control. He was killed when the drone helicopter sliced off the top of his head, as reported by the Washington Post.
According to MSN, FAA has been receiving increased complaints regarding the drones flying over sporting events and causing distruptions, over and above the issues at the football games. The drones have been spotted over the U.S. Open in New York, a NFL preseason game in Charlotte, and even the Cheyenne Frontier Days, which is one of the United States largest rodeos held in Wyoming, although college football remains the most popular events for the drones.
The FAA realized something drastic had to be done when these thrill-seeking drone-flyers began causing problems for airports due to them flying dangerously close to passenger planes.
Some changes were made to the FAA regulations in a recent public notice issued October 27. According to current FAA rules, “it is forbidden to fly drones below 3,000 feet and within three miles of baseball or football stadiums with a seating capacity of at least 30,000. The restrictions only apply on game day, starting one hour before a contest and lasting until an hour after it ends,” as reported by the Washington Post.
The rules also state that “recreationists can operate drones as long as they are kept below 400 feet and away from airports.” Any violation of these FAA rules could lead to a fine or imprisonment for up to a year — a steep penalty.
The athletic department at the University of Louisville purchased three of the small drones in order to film their practices. Nick Stover, the athletic department’s director of social media, tells MSN they use the footage obtained from the drones to post on Facebook and Youtube.
“Sports fans love the aerial photography, even if the drones themselves sometimes breed suspicion. There’s a pretty big stigma. People will joke around and literally ask me if I have guns attached to these. They just sort of assume the worst.”
The University is walking a thin line in regards to the FAA regulations regarding commercial use for drone footage. MSN reports that while it is “permissible for sports teams to use drones to film their own practices,” the footage cannot be used for commercial gain.
An example is when the FAA ordered the Washington Nationals to stop using drones to film their spring-training when it became evident the footage was being used to promote their team.
Nick Stover admits that Louisville was doing exactly that. MSN reports Stover stating they were using their drone footage “to help monetize social media.”
Recreational drone users are not happy about the new FAA restrictions. Brendan Schuman, who is a New York attorney currently representing several drone operators tells International Business Times that the latest public noticed issued by the FAA is “another attempt by the FAA to impose legal restrictions on drones or model aircraft that never existed before.”
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