Recently, operations of unmanned aircraft systems (“UAS”) at on-campus sporting events have placed a number of universities in the news. On Sept. 5, 2015, a student crashed a drone into the University of Kentucky football stadium just prior to kickoff of the first game of the season. The University of Nebraska – Lincoln also disclosed that university police detained four people related to the operation of UAS at football home games on Sept. 5, 12, and 26.
There are two primary concerns related to the operation of UAS at large campus events.
- Safety. First is the obvious safety issue. As in the University of Kentucky incident, any UAS operator can lose control of the UAS, placing any spectators under the flight path in danger.
- Temporary Flight Restrictions. Second, in an effort to improve security, the Federal Aviation Administration frequently issues temporary flight restrictions (“TFR”) over events at stadiums containing in excess of 30,000 people. Often beginning one hour before and ending one hour after an event, such TFRs frequently prohibit flight operations at and below 3,000 feet within a 3-nautical-mile radius of the stadium. Thus, UAS operations near campus sports stadiums are not only unsafe, but they can also be illegal.
Such incidents highlight the need for institutes of higher education to implement and enforce UAS policies, which help facilitate the safe and legal operation of UAS.