03Apr 2019

Stadium Security: Drone detection helps enforce safety policies and procedures

Stadium Security (2)

Quick recap: In post 1, we covered Issue #1: Drone threats, risks, and disruptions specific to stadiums. In post 2, we talked about Issue #2: Economic impacts so you can better understand the priority of risk and prepare to make security purchasing decisions. In this article, we will discuss drone policies and procedures related to stadium security.

Sports venues and entertainment events hosting thousands of spectators mean security planners must address a host of potential risks and threats to ensure safety and security at every event. Failure to accurately assess risks and implement effective security protocols can create conditions for crises, crowd violence, and terrorism.


Stadiums need clear policies and procedures to deal with rogue drones

Stadiums and venues must have a clear SOP in place before considering any drone detection system purchase. We recommend that you create a clearly defined policy with procedures on how your team will handle drone sightings and react to this threat based on FAA laws, state laws, and other rules and regulations.

When implementing security procedures and protocols, security staff must consider the potential risk and threats of drones; failing to do so will leave staff unprepared. All arenas and stadiums need to establish standard operating procedures (SOPs) to deal with drones in the event a drone incident happens at your facility. Outline the chain of command and emergency procedures, so every employee knows whom to alert and how to respond during a drone security breach. Just as key staff would practice active shooter or vehicle ramming tabletop exercises, all game day staff should practice emergency simulation exercises for drone incidents as well.

Questions to consider when developing your drone security strategies:

  • What can the FAA do to enforce unauthorized drones?
  • Can state and local law enforcement help enforce drones?
  • Will operators misusing drones face criminal charges or fines?
  • What can you do if an unauthorized drone is spotted near your stadium?

If a drone incident happens at your facility, your on-site law enforcement partners will most likely be your first point of contact. The FAA acknowledges that “Public Safety Agencies, such as Law Enforcement, are in the best position to deter, detect, and investigate unauthorized or unsafe UAS operations.”

Cathy Lanier had this to say about the NFL helping clubs with this threat in her Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee testimony, “to help the clubs in this difficult environment, the NFL has developed and published best practices and standards for responding to drone incidents. These best practices, which are incorporated into our overall best practices for stadium security, include suggested procedures for notifying local and federal authorities, strategies for locating the operator, and recommended safety procedures if the device lands on the field or in the stands.”

Owners and operators of sports and entertainment venues can look to industry best practices for guidance on developing security strategies. Examples of industry best practices leaders include:

  • Command, Control and Interoperability Center for Advanced Data Analysis (CCICADA)
  • National Center for Spectator Sports Safety Security (NCS4)
  • Professional sports organizations (NFL, MLB, and NBA)

How can drone detection help enforce policies and procedures?

Drone detection gives you situational awareness to make better operational decisions when dealing with a rogue drone. If you can locate the pilot, local authorities can be alerted in real-time of the pilot's location and proceed to it. If the person is on stadium property, event security can be alerted to perpetrator's position and advance to their site.

The faster someone can determine the drone pilot’s location and get the drone out of your way; the faster security can diffuse the situation and secure the perimeters. Having a drone detection system without outlining procedures on what to do after a drone is detected isn’t that useful. That is why we stress the importance of policies. Drone detection isn’t a one-stop shop solution; it is another layer your team can utilize to close your security gaps.

Data collected from continuous drone monitoring allows you actionable intelligence your team can use to mitigate current threats and deter repeat offenders. This data is valuable after the event in supporting law-enforcement processes.

DHS SAFETY Act Certification/Designation

Any discussion on stadium security strategies would not be complete without discussing the Department of Homeland (DHS) SAFETY Act. Stadiums, arenas, and other entertainment venues should consider the DHS SAFETY Act and DHS SAFETY approved vendors in there security plans.

Three major sporting leagues: the National Football League (NFL), Major League Baseball (MLB), and National Basketball Association (NBA), have played a key role in upgrading and strengthening security at stadiums and arenas throughout the country with the help of the DHS Science and Technology Directorate’s SAFETY Act. Stadium operators and owners can use the approved Technology, such as league level best practices, for stadium security as a pathway to apply for their individual designation or certification.


Stadiums with DHS SAFETY ACT Awards:

Stadiums DHS SAFETY Act Awards


The SAFETY Act advances public safety by fostering the development and deployment of anti-terrorism best practices and technologies and providing entities with liability protections. The SAFETY Act liability protections can apply to a wide range of technologies, including products, services, software, or other forms of intellectual property. Small and large stadiums can benefit significantly from SAFETY Act protections. Learn more about the SAFETY Act for stadiums and sports leagues by reading: Dissecting the DHS SAFETY Act.

Drone Policy: Drone use at Stadiums

Drones are useful tools for any sports teams. The devices help coaches and coordinators improve practice sessions and plays by allowing them to analyze plays from different angles. In 2015, the NFL became the first major sports league to receive permission from the FAA to video with drones except on game days. Since 2015, a growing number of professional sports teams are trying to gain a competitive edge through the use of drone technology.

Sports teams at all levels can benefit from drones before you start writing your drone policy make your team addresses your team’s short- and long-term goals with drones. Drones policies are essential to promote the safe, efficient, and lawful operation of drones. You can Download our Stadium Drone Policy template to modify and use as a starting draft.

Up next: In the next article, we will examine Issue #4: Evaluating different drone detection technologies for stadium environments.