Super Bowl will have 30-mile “no drone zone”

Buzzing quarterback Tom Brady with an unmanned aircraft might sound like fun, but anyone who flies a drone remotely near the University of Phoenix stadium, where Super Bowl XLIX is taking place this Sunday, could face big, big trouble from the FAA.

On Wednesday, the country’s aviation regulator singled out drones in a fact sheet about Super Bowl–related aircraft activity, saying the popular consumer devices can’t be flown within a 30-mile radius of the stadium (my emphasis):

A second outer ring will encompass the airspace between 10 and 30 miles from the stadium. [..] All unmanned aircraft operations – also known as drones—are prohibited within the restricted areas. These include model aircraft operations, model rocketry and Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS). Anyone who operates an unmanned aircraft in the restricted area could face civil penalties or criminal charges.

The FAA rules feel a tad excessive given that a variety of conventional aircraft will be permitted to fly within that outer ring, and that devices like a 6-pound quadcopter can’t do much harm from 20 miles away.

Still, the agency is understandably feeling skittish after a drunk person crashed a drone on President Obama’s doorstep this week, and after drones in the last year have made unexpected and unwanted appearances at other football games and at the U.S. Open. The White House incident led the Administration to call on agencies to take increased action this week.

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reports this morning that drug dealers and would-be terrorists are turning to drones as potential delivery vehicles.

So, in this context, it’s hardly a surprise that the FAA is coming down hard on drones at the Super Bowl. In case anyone missed the point, the agency also put out this “No Drone Zone” video on YouTube.