FAA Bans Drones From The Super Bowl — Unless You're Lady Gaga
Beginning at 4pm Central Time and extending until just before midnight, the Federal Aviation Administration has instituted a Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) within a 34.5 mile radius of NRG Stadium in Houston, where today's Super Bowl is being played. The TFR prohibits certain aircraft operations — including drones — from operating within the flight area during the proscribed times.
Super Bowl flight restrictions aren't unusual and the FAA has had other special procedures in place for the last several days leading up to the big game and continuing into tomorrow. But the FAA is going out of its way to inform members of the public specifically about the drone restriction, even producing a 20 second video declaring the Super Bowl to be a "No Drone Zone."
With drones becoming ever more popular, incidents between drones and other aircraft are becoming more common, and the FAA now requires drone operators to register their devices. But while drones have been banned from flying over major sporting events since 2014, this years "No Drone Zone" — which is equivalent to 30 nautical miles — is large enough that it could easily affect people in the Houston area with no connection to the game, especially considering the stadium is located near the downtown area. Therefore, the FAA advises drone operators to consult its B4UFLY smartphone app, which can show in real time any flight restrictions or requirements that exist in the area for unmanned aircraft.
Meanwhile, the FAA drone ban required a little extra work to produce aspects of the game's entertainment. According to CNNMoney, Super Bowl organizers had to request clearance from the FAA to use drones during the halftime show, which this year is featuring Lady Gaga. A source reportedly said the performance will include hundreds of lit-up drones. While companies such as Disney have previously employed drones in shows, this will be the first time drones are incorporated into the widely watched Super Bowl halftime broadcast.
As far as the rest of us, CNET reported that local law enforcement officials are aware of the ban, and NORAD -- the North American Aerospace Defense command -- is enforcing the ban, according to FAA spokeswoman Laura J. Brown. Recently, commercial operators have been fined for using drones in a careless or reckless manner, and at last year's third presidential debate, Las Vegas police employed an anti-drone system known as DroneTracker that can locate and jam signals between the drone and the operator.
So if you're heading out to the stadium today, leave your drones at home. Kickoff between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons is scheduled for 6:30pm Eastern.