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Cleared for Takeoff: FAA Authorizes NFL Affiliate to Fly UAS

Lisa Ellman

Lisa Ellman,

Washington, D.C.

Matthew J. Clark

Matthew J. Clark,

Northern Virginia

24 September 2015
NFL subsidiary NFL Productions LLC d/b/a NFL Films has received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to fly unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) for filming. But don’t expect to see snack deliveries or a drone kiss-cam anytime soon on game day. Like other companies that have received FAA authorization to fly UAS, the NFL affiliate will have to comply with a number of requirements — one of which includes not flying near spectators or general members of the public. Last October the FAA also issued a NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) that criminalized flying UAS over certain large stadiums around the time of scheduled events.

The NFL affiliate filed for a Section 333 Petition for Exemption requesting permission to fly UAS on May 20, 2015, and the FAA granted the petition on September 17.

Under the exemption, the NFL affiliate will be able to film in and around stadiums, practice facilities, and other closed-set locations that are not open to the public. The NFL affiliate will only be allowed to fly the DJI Phantom 1, DJI Phantom 2 and DJI Inspire 1. In January of this year, the DJI Phantom 2 made headlines when it crash landed on the White House lawn.

Additional operating requirements that will need to be adhered to during flights include:

  • The UAS must weigh less than 55 pounds, including the camera, gimbal and other accessories
  • Not flying faster than 100 mph
  • Staying below an altitude of 400 feet
  • The operator must have a current FAA issued pilot certificate
  • Must be flown within visual line-of-sight of the pilot and a visual observer
  • Must stay at least 5 nm away from airports (without separate FAA approval)
  • Daytime flights only

Earlier this year, the FAA investigated several NFL teams for potentially illegal UAS operations to film practices, which is prohibited commercial activity without FAA authorization.

Lisa Ellman

Lisa Ellman,

Washington, D.C.

Matthew J. Clark

Matthew J. Clark,

Northern Virginia

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