24 Sep 2015

Drones Banned at Sporting Events by High School Athletic Organization

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drones sporting events

Drones sporting events

Imagine sitting on a set of 15 row aluminum bleachers watching your son’s football game or your daughter’s soccer match and a drone appears in the sky.

“Well, that’s kind of cool,” you might think. Right up until it falls on your head.

For this reason, the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association recently banned drones at all high school athletic events in the state.

“There’s still so much stuff out there that’s not known about drones, said NJSIAA Executive Director Steve Timko. “Until we’re able to find out more we approved what we did and we’ll continue to work with our membership to see if there are any adjustments.”

You can be sure similar athletic organizations across the country will be sure to adopt the same type of policy quickly. Many have. Drones flying over sporting events is becoming a big problem.

The FAA has already banned drone flights over stadiums with more than 30,000 people such as Major League Baseball, National Football League, NCAA college football games or major auto races such as NASCAR. Violators could actually face criminal charges.

One of the most high-profile cases recently took place at the U.S. Open when a drone flying over a tennis match crashed into the stands. Fortunately no one was hurt.

However, at a triathlon last year a female athlete was injured just as she came across the finish line when a drone covering the event got too close. That’s definitely not cool. In another instance, some football players were reportedly buzzed by a low flying during a game. Referees stopped play and told everybody to leave the field.

As you can imagine, for many new drone owners, one of the first places they want to try out their new toy is flying over a MLB, NFL or frankly any sporting event. To date, there have reportedly been 50 instances where these small unmanned aircraft hovered over a game or entered the air space of a stadium.

Another issue is whether drones could be used by opposing teams for a competitive advantage. (Might want to check up on the New England Patriots. They are probably already doing this).

Here’s another use. Say a team is on a roll and about to score. What a great way to break their momentum (hey some parents can get overzealous.).

For bigger events, think about how this might be used to affect the outcome of sports betting.

It’s very apparent that the crackdown on drones is going to escalate.

Drones banned with technology also being developed to stop them

The FAA and Homeland Security are reportedly exploring ways they can stop drones or at least detect them when they launch and possibly from where. One Achilles heel for drones is that they make a distinctive sound that can be quickly detected and tracked. They can do that with gunshots, why not unmanned aerial devices?

There’s talk of creating law enforcement drones that would chase down and knock down bad drones. Now that would be an awesome addition to any major sporting event.

One effective tactic is that as soon as a drone is spotted, play is stopped. So in essence, the drone pilot will have nothing to video or photograph but a bunch of angry people staring up at him.

This brings up another source of detection – crowds. You stop an NFL game because you want to fly your toy above the crowds and you had better believe they are going to point out the source of the drone or at least the direction it came from.

Law enforcement personnel are also very aware of the drone issue. They will now be on alert to look for them and they will be hunting down the drone pilots very quickly. Also, most major sporting events now post signs prohibiting the use of drones.

Some police departments have filed reckless endangerment charges against drone pilots. There are probably a bunch of other crimes that can also be applied – trespassing (aerial space), vandalism, harassment, etc. If someone is injured, then it could be an assault charge. None of these would be good for the operator.

You can also be sure some group is going to come up with laws specifically addressing trespassing drones. Those penalties could become very heavy compared to say hopping over a stadium fence.

Still, tracking and stopping drones is a challenge. Some drones can be operated from as far as a half-mile away. In fact, the cause of many mishaps is because the operators get too far away from the aircraft and then lose a radio connection. You hear many violators claim they meant no harm, the drone just “got away” from them.

The other challenge is that with today’s technology, anybody can operate one of these things. They are very, very simple to use. And, they are getting bigger, which makes them more dangerous. They are also getting smaller, which makes them harder to detect and stop.

As drone technology advances, it’s inevitable they will become even more of a concern. One of the best penalties for violating the rules would be confiscation of the device. That will stop many people who dished out hundreds or thousands to purchase one.

Previously, you had to keep your eye on a ballgame to watch out for an errant foul ball, someone tripping in the aisle or a fight breaking out. Now while sitting on a set of aluminum bleachers at a local game and enjoying the action, you might want to scan the skies every so often. You never know what could be flying over your head.



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