Marcus Gollahon

Uninvited Guests in the Sky: The Rising Challenge of Drone Incursions at Major Sporting Events

Uninvited Guests in the Sky: The Rising Challenge of Drone Incursions at Major Sporting Events

Welcome, aviation enthusiasts and professionals!

Today we're tackling an issue that's on the radar of every pilot and control tower across the nation: the escalating encounters between unmanned aerial systems (UAS), more commonly known as drones, and manned aircraft. With a particular focus on a recent event that stirred the skies— a drone incursion at an NFL game— we’ll examine the murky airspace where technology and safety intersect.

In today's flight plan, you'll learn:

  • 🕹️ The Rise of Drones in Controlled Airspace
  • 🏈 Recent Incidents: The NFL Game Drone Incursion
  • 🔍 FAA Regulations and Responses
  • 👨‍✈️👩‍✈️ Implications for Pilots and Flight Instructors
  • 🔄 Best Practices for Avoiding UAS Conflicts
  • ⚖️ Legal Consequences and Enforcements

Drones have undeniably revolutionized numerous industries, from filmmaking to farming, but their rise presents new challenges for aviators. The recent drone incursion at an NFL game, as reported by Flying Mag, brings to light the urgency of understanding and addressing the risks these devices pose to air traffic. So, let's dissect this situation and explore the broader context of UAS in aviation.

🕹️ The Rise of Drones in Controlled Airspace

Drones, once a niche hobbyist gadget, are now commonplace, with estimates of millions in use across the United States. As these numbers swell, so do the odds of them straying into controlled airspace, an area designed exclusively for the safe operation of manned aircraft.

Navigating this new reality requires an understanding of the technologies involved and the potential hazards they present. Drones can be invisible to radar, too small for collision avoidance systems, and pose significant risks if they collide with manned aircraft, including catastrophic failure.

A game at M&T Bank Stadium, home to the Baltimore Ravens, was halted twice because of a rogue drone. [Courtesy: Joey Pulone/Baltimore Ravens]

🏈 Recent Incidents: The NFL Game Drone Incursion

During a Thursday night NFL game, a rogue drone penetrated tightly controlled airspace designated for the safety and security of the event. This is just one example of countless breaches taking place, showcasing the brazenness of some operators and the difficulty in policing these devices.

In response, the FAA quickly initiated an investigation, demonstrating their vigilance and commitment to addressing such violations. This investigation also highlights the partnership between local authorities and federal agencies in managing drone intrusions.

🔍 FAA Regulations and Responses

To counter the risks, the FAA has developed policies governing UAS operations. This framework is continually evolving, marked by initiatives like the UAS Integration Pilot Program and the LAANC system (Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability), which facilitate safe drone integration into the airspace.

However, compliance depends on awareness and adherence from the drone community. When violations occur, the FAA's enforcement arm swings into action, but capturing and penalizing rogue operators remains a significant challenge.

👨‍✈️👩‍✈️ Implications for Pilots and Flight Instructors

The inclusion of drones into the airspace mosaic means that pilots and CFIs must become knowledgeable about UAS behavior and regulations. They should incorporate UAS recognition and avoidance tactics into their flight training curricula. Enhanced situational awareness and knowledge of the correct procedures in case of a drone encounter are now crucial components of a pilot’s skill set.

🔄 Best Practices for Avoiding UAS Conflicts

Pilots can employ several strategies to reduce the risk of UAS conflicts:

  • Preflight Briefings: Include potential drone activity based on location and event schedules.
  • Enhanced Observational Techniques: Train to spot small, fast-moving objects during flight.
  • Use of Technology: Explore tools like ADS-B and TCAS that may provide some level of detection for larger UAS.
  • Clear Communication: Report any drone sightings to ATC immediately for the dissemination of alerts to other airspace users.

As demonstrated by the NFL game incident, the FAA does not take unauthorized drone flights lightly. Penalties for violating airspace regulations can include significant fines and, in egregious cases, criminal charges. It's a message to the drone community that safety takes precedence, and compliance is non-negotiable.

Conclusion: Safeguarding our Skies

Pilots must now navigate an airspace that includes UAS— a testament to our evolving technological landscape. While drones offer enormous benefits, they come with new dimensions of risk that pilots, air traffic controllers, and CFIs must manage. By staying informed, diligent, and proactive, we uphold the safety and integrity of our shared aerial domain.

🐦 X (Twitter) Poll: LINK TO POLL

(Results will be discussed in our next issue. Your feedback is invaluable!)


About the author
Marcus Gollahon

Marcus Gollahon

Airline Pilot at SkyWest Charter, blends flight expertise with a passion for teaching and coding. Committed to aviation excellence and innovative education.

Level Up Your Flight Training

Hi, I'm Marcus. I offer comprehensive flight instruction resources backed by years of experience and effective teaching methods. Cut through the noise and learn what really matters

Marcus Gollahon

Great! You’ve successfully signed up.

Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.

You've successfully subscribed to Marcus Gollahon.

Success! Check your email for magic link to sign-in.

Success! Your billing info has been updated.

Your billing was not updated.