Sep 25 2015

FAA Lets NFL Use Drones Under Certain Terms

The FAA is accepting the use of technology, but still demanding that this use adhere to guidelines.

Using drones has resulted in bad press for the National Football League (NFL) in the past, eventually landing it on the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA’s) radar. Nevertheless, the FAA’s new agreement with the NFL is quite the opposite: the agency is allowing the league to film content using drones.

Last week, the FAA approved the NFL’s request for exemption to fly unmanned aircrafts. In becoming the first major sports league given permission to send drones over stadiums, its film division, NFL Films, will be able to gather a bevvy of footage. The FAA’s consent, however, comes with the understanding that certain provisions must be adhered to.

Per the FAA, NFL Films must follow all local, state and federal rules when filming. In addition, drones cannot weigh more than 55 pounds (payload included), and cannot travel faster than 100 miles per hour or above 400 feet in the air. Furthermore, drones cannot fly at night, within five nautical miles of an airport or outside of its pilot’s line of sight at any times. Even with these specific restrictions, this situation represents a loosening by the FAA of its grip on this technology.

As the Associated Press reports, the FAA declared it illegal to fly drones in close proximity to NFL, National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I college football and Major League Baseball games. The NFL already prohibits drone use on game days in parking lots and stadiums, so NFL Films will only deploy them on empty stadiums.

“They will be used when there are no people present for scenic shots for productions such as NFL Films Presents and Together We Make Football pieces on The Today Show,” league spokesperson Brian McCarthy told the Washington Post.

Drones offer technological advantages, but those benefits must always fit within FAA standards and guidelines. For example, they have been used to help combat forest fires in California by revealing the spread of the fires, but regulation has been necessary because some drone pilots have actually been impeding important firefighting efforts. As the NFL embraces new technology that will no doubt help to create amazing visual information, it can only do so if it follows the specific rules set by the FAA.


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