HomeFAA Will Crack Down On Patriots, Giants And Cowboys Over The Usage Of Drones

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As if the New England Patriots needed another investigation.

With all the recent advancements in drone technology, no wonder that various National Football League teams have been trying to get a leg up by filming their practices with drones. The only issue is that it’s illegal to fly drones for commercial purposes without first getting approval from the Federal Aviation Administration.

The Patriots, New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys all apparently neglected to do so.

Instead, the teams have been operating them to record practices and rookie minicamps without express permission.

In a statement on their website, the Giants said they used a DJI Phantom 3 to record their minicamp practice at 50 to 60 feet above ground. “It enables the coaches to study plays from a straight overhead angle, which wasn’t previously possible,” according to the report.

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Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett also praised the advantages of unmanned aircraft.

“The drone angle is interesting because it gives you a chance from behind to see all 11 guys on offense and all 11 guys on defense, but from a lower angle,” he told The Dallas Morning News. “Often times, you have to kind of pull yourself way away to get the all-22 shot. This allows you to be a little closer, so you can coach better. You see hand placement, you see where they have their feet and where they have their eyes. I think that’s important. You can look at the players and coach them better when you’re that much closer to the action.”

The team used drones during a rookie minicamp by Southern Methodist University’s athletic department, though an SMU rep admits that they did not have FAA permission. Ouch.

In 2013, The Onion ran a satirical piece about the New England Patriots using drones to get ahead. Two years later, it’s a reality (though the circumstances differ; the Patriots aren’t using the technology to take out offensive threats).

An exemption waiver from the FAA is required to fly drones outdoors. The operator must also adhere to the administration’s safety regulations, which state that a drone must be operated in low-risk, controlled environments, or applicants must be able to supply information about everything from a system’s design to details on quality assurance procedures.

None of the three teams, however, had obtained waivers. And while illegal drone usage makes the teams “subject to fines,” the FAA says that only a handful of violations have actually resulted in fined; the safety guidelines are for educational purposes.

“The agency has contacted the Dallas Cowboys organization to explain the proper procedure for obtaining the necessary exemption,” a FAA spokesperson told Mashable. “The FAA will look into the New York Giants’ and New England Patriots’ recent use of an unmanned aircraft system during team practices.”

This wouldn’t be the first time drones caused trouble in sports. In October 2014, disaster hit a Serbia-Albania soccer match when a drone waving a pro-Albanian flag flew into the stadium, inciting fights between the teams and among the crowds.