Ahead of Super Bowl LVIII, Drone Incursions at Stadiums Are on the Rise

Dedrone, the leader in smart airspace security, revealed that over 370  major sporting events experienced more than 4,000 illegal drone violations in 2023 across nearly 60 stadiums globally. This is an increase of nearly 20% from 2022 to 2023 and resulted in event delays, the apprehension of drone pilots and an increased risk to public safety. 

Cathy Lanier, the National Football League’s Chief Security Officer, has stated drone incursions nearly doubled between the 2021-22 and 2022-23 regular football seasons, from 1,300 to 2,500. From 2018 to 2023, there were 121,000 requests to the FBI to send specialized counterdrone units to stadiums and other critical infrastructure sites to protect against drones, but they were able to only fulfill  6% of these requests, demonstrating the significant obstacles to addressing drone incursions under current laws. Although a drone incursion has not yet turned into a serious threat, Lanier pointed out that in 2018, drones released leaflets directly over spectators at two stadiums, which may foreshadow the capabilities of drones to wreak havoc on sporting events by dropping anything from harmless baby powder and creating panic, to dropping actual hazardous materials.  

One notable stoppage occurred in November 2023, where broadcast footage showed a drone flying over M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, MD during a game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Cincinnati Bengals; the game was stopped twice, with players heading off the field both times and multiple drones appearing to cause the second stoppage.  

Super Bowl LVIII will be held in Las Vegas on February 11. The city of Las Vegas utilizes DedroneCityWide, the largest airspace security infrastructure in the world, which covers critical zones of the city, notably its major stadiums, airport and the Las Vegas Strip. As shared by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, “After the October 1 event [2017 Mandalay Bay mass shooting], we realized that we had to analyze all potential threat vectors to our city, including drones. Ahead of Super Bowl LVIII, our collaboration with external security and public safety groups, both public and private, is essential to providing a safe environment to attendees, players, staff and the citizens of Clark County.”  

The Super Bowl is a designated SEAR 1 event by the Department of Homeland Security, the highest level of security for large-scale events in the US. Las Vegas is collaborating with 36 Super Bowl public safety and security working groups. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has already issued temporary flight restrictions (TFRs) for drones around Allegiant Stadium, Resorts World and Wynn Casino on specific days, with wider restrictions in place on the day the game will be played. Drone operators who violate these restrictions without pre-authorization from the FAA could face drone confiscation, fines in excess of $30,000 and potential criminal prosecution. 

In total, Dedrone recorded 4,046 drone flights across 374 events that violated TFRs around 59 global stadiums it protects.  

“The federal government clearly understands the threat posed by drones, or the FAA wouldn’t have put these TFRs in place ahead of the game. Although not every drone flight we recorded was nefarious in origin, some of them were — and those are the kinds of flights that can stop games or ruin concerts and other events being held at stadiums,” said Ben Wenger, Chief Revenue Officer of Dedrone. “These rising statistics make it obvious that counterdrone technology is no longer nice to have. It is now essential.”  

“Unauthorized drone activity is escalating everywhere. The difference between this season’s data and last year’s is particularly stark, especially with TV cameras now capturing and broadcasting these events to millions of viewers at home, highlighting significant breaches of security. With 2024 bringing both Super Bowl LVIII and the 2024 Summer Olympics, we must take these threats seriously,” continued Wenger.“ Major sporting leagues have voiced their support for stronger counterdrone legislation, and there are mitigation solutions available. It’s time we enact legislation that allows public safety agencies to effectively use them.”  

About Dedrone      

Dedrone is the world’s leader in smart airspace security. Hundreds of commercial, government and military customers around the world rely on Dedrone’s comprehensive, command and control (C2) solution to protect against the persistent and escalating threat from drones while enabling “good” drones to fly. By leveraging AI/ML, Dedrone is the only solution that provides continuous, autonomous drone interrogation and verification to bring both multi-sensor and multi-mitigation options onto a single “pane-of-glass”. Whether on-premise/air-gapped or in the cloud, Dedrone customers can easily detect, track, identify, analyze and mitigate drone threats.  

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