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Using drones at sport events

This is an excerpt from Security and Risk Assessment for Facility and Event Managers With HKPropel Access by Stacey Hall,James A. McGee & Walter E. Cooper.

Drone Protections

Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) or drones, are aircraft without a human pilot onboard that are controlled by an operator remotely or programmed to fly autonomously” (U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2017, p.1). Drones range in power, size, and weight. Some are electronically powered with an onboard battery, and some are powered by a small combustion engine. They weigh a few ounces to over 50 pounds and are a few inches to several feet in size. The operational ceiling varies from a few feet to over 1,000 feet. Flight times range from a few minutes to over 30 minutes for electronically powered models to over an hour for internal combustion–powered models. Drones are also available with cameras and the ability to stream live video and audio via Bluetooth (U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2017).

Drones have been used to support firefighting and search and rescue operations, monitor and assess critical infrastructure, and provide disaster relief by transporting emergency medical supplies to remote locations. However, drones can be used for malicious purposes. Drone threats include the following (U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2017).

  • Weaponized or smuggling payloads: Capable of transporting contraband and chemical or other explosive or weaponized payloads
  • Prohibited surveillance and reconnaissance: Silent monitoring of an area from the sky for nefarious purposes
  • Intellectual property theft: Perform cybercrimes involving theft of trade secrets, technologies, or sensitive information
  • Intentional disruption or harassment: Disrupt or invade the privacy of others

The recreational use of UAVs has increased over the past several years. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) projected private sales to be $7 million in 2020. Therefore, the potential threat is expected to increase because drones can often evade detection and create challenges for the critical infrastructure community. A modified consumer drone was used in an attempt to disrupt the U.S. power grid in 2020, a first-of-its-kind attack on the energy infrastructure. Sports venues, in particular, have been dealing with illegal drone activity. For example, in 2015, a drone crashed into the stands at Louis Armstrong Stadium in New York City during a U.S. Open match. In 2017, an unauthorized drone crashed into the upper deck seating at a Major League Baseball (MLB) game at Petco Park between the San Diego Padres and the Arizona Diamondbacks. The MLB has since prohibited drone use at all its parks. The English Premier League has strict airspace restrictions over stadiums. A soccer match was suspended for 30 minutes in January 2022 when a rogue drone was spotted circling above Brentford Community Stadium. Measures to tackle drone security incidents include using legally approved counterdrone technology, becoming familiar with the air domain around your facility, contacting the FAA to request drone restrictions close to the facility, updating emergency action plans to include response strategies, and reporting drone threats to local law enforcement (U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2017). Please visit for more information.

Drone technology can also be used to the event organizer’s advantage. If feasible, it is recommended for event organizers to engage a drone monitoring partner. A tethered drone service at an event can assist with real-time video, crowd movement analytics, and public address announcements. Ludwig (2018) further outlines the benefits of drone use for facilities and events and how they can be used to protect property and people as follows.

  • Assess risks: Drones can provide a different perspective when evaluating gaps and vulnerabilities during the risk assessment stage.
  • Control perimeter: They can monitor perimeters day and night with thermal imaging cameras.
  • Inspect: Drones can conduct inspections and monitor roofs and other high places with ease that would be otherwise difficult to reach by individuals on the ground.
  • Incident reporting: Because drones can reach a spectator incident more quickly than a security guard can, they have the ability to assess the situation sooner so management knows how to respond best. In addition, through images and audio and video sensors, drones can differentiate between gunfire and explosions.
  • Emergency relief: Drones can be used to locate people inside collapsed buildings.
  • Cost-effective: Using drones could alleviate the cost of security officers, cameras, or physical barriers.
More Excerpts From Security and Risk Assessment for Facility and Event Managers With HKPropel Access