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Drone Flies over University of Wisconsin-Madison/Illinois Football Game

Drone Flies over University of Wisconsin-Madison/Illinois Football Game

University of Wisconsin-Madison police have joined federal aviation officials to find the pilot of a drone that flew over jumping college students at Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday afternoon as UW-Madison played Illinois. 

The drone, photographed by Wisconsin State Journal photographer Michael P. King, was white, with four small propellers and a GoPro camera and identified as a DJI Phantom quadcopter model, but the pilot was still unidentified by Monday night. King said after the drone hovered over the students it flew to the north end of the stadium before leaving the area. Two possible landing spots would have been a parking lot for the engineering building and an empty field.

University athletics officials attested they were unaware of the drone because fans didn’t notice it, as they were preoccupied with the “Jump Around” between the third and fourth quarters. That period typically features fans dancing to the House of Pain song.

The Federal Aviation Administration is against drones in stadiums; the agency stopped a drone delivery of a football before a game at the University of Michigan’s stadium as well as lambasting photographers who used drones during a college game in Tennessee and an NFL preseason game in North Carolina, both without obtaining prior approval. FAA regulations forbid drones to fly over the stadium from an hour before kickoff until an hour after the game is completed. That requirement was implemented after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and forbids drone flights for three miles around and 4,000 feet above the stadium.

Lt. Ruth Ewing of the UW-Madison police said no permission had been granted for the drone flight. Ewing added that UW police officials have seen the surveillance camera footage but wouldn’t comment further.

The Academy of Model Aeronautics revamped its safety guidelines in January, stating that “all pilots shall avoid flying directly over unprotected people, vessels, vehicles or structures and shall avoid endangerment of life and property of others.” The FAA echoed those guidelines in June by forbidding drone flights near airports and crowds. The FAA maintains that pilots must be able to see their drones when flying them. That was impossible on Saturday because the drone crossed into the airspace above the stadium before it left the area, so the pilot would have been unable to see it.


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