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Drones flying above stadiums delayed Seahawks and Husky games over the weekend

The Federal Aviation Administration prohibits drones within three miles of a stadium one hour before and one hour after some sporting events.

SEATTLE — Drones over stadiums caused delays during Saturday's University of Washington Football game and Sunday's Seattle Seahawks game.

Neither aircraft was associated with the games or organizations.

The first spotting was during the fourth quarter of the UW against Stanford game. UW Head Coach Kalen DeBoer said during a press conference on Monday the aircraft was not associated with UW Athletics.

The second spotting was during the fourth quarter of Sunday's Seahawks versus Falcons game at Lumen Field. 

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) prohibits drones within three miles of a stadium one hour before and one hour after events in the following sports: 

  • Major League Baseball
  • National Football League
  • NCAA Division One Football
  • NASCAR Sprint Cup, Indy Car and Champ Series races

"I doubt they launched it from inside the stadium. They could have been standing [outside] and flown it in and flying it blind essentially, which is another rules violation," said Greg Thies, the Chief Safety Officer for the drone program operated by KING 5's parent company, Tegna.

Thies oversees training and safety operations for 150 drone pilots at Tegna's 42 television stations.

In some cases, the FAA can grant special permission to fly a drone over a stadium, but Thies said there are several safety factors taken into account including the size and weight of the drone.

"There are rules around flying the drones and rules for good reason. For safety and not to be interrupting and quite honestly working outside the context of what they're supposed to be used for," Thies said. 

The FAA said flying an unauthorized drone over a stadium may result in civil penalties up to $37,377 and potential criminal prosecution.

Thies said changes are coming that will make pilots of unauthorized flights easier to identify. Starting September 16, 2023, drones will be required to have Remote Identification capabilities. The FAA said it acts like a digital license plate and will help locate control stations when a flight is happening in an unsafe or unauthorized manner.

"Especially in big events such as this, [the FAA] would probably have the equipment on hand to immediately identify where that aircraft is being operated from... not only who owns the aircraft but where the operator is on the ground. So they would be able to have a much more specific response to what was going on," Thies explained.

The FAA said Seattle police is investigating the violation at the Seahawks game. As of Monday afternoon, UW had not filed a formal report with the FAA.

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