Drone delays at Seahawks, Huskies games highlight growing problem

SEATTLE — Two drone delays at Seattle football games this weekend highlight what experts say is a growing problem.

On Sunday, officials cleared the field at a Seahawks game because of an unauthorized drone.

The night before, the same thing happened during a UW football game at Husky Stadium.

The Federal Aviation Administration implements temporary flight restrictions around stadiums for professional football and baseball games, NCAA Division One football, and NASCAR events.

Drones are not allowed within 3 miles of a stadium from one hour before, until one hour after, a major event.

Professional drone pilot and instructor James Morton says too many operators don’t know the rules.

“I think it’s lack of education and situational awareness,” he said.

Bloomberg Government reported that last season, the NFL counted 1,400 drone incursions during flight restrictions around stadiums, and quoted the league’s chief security officer, who said, “I’m concerned about the nefarious actor.”

“We’re seeing this on a regular basis,” said Brandon Lugo of Aerial Armor, a company that has networks of sensors to detect drones around stadiums, concerts, and sensitive sites.

“We have a network that covers all of Seattle,” Lugo said.

Lugo won’t name Aerial Armor’s clients, but says the company’s systems use radar and detect radio frequencies between a drone and its remote to help law enforcement track down the operator.

Lugo says the technology exists to take control of rogue drones, preventing them from entering a restricted area or steering them away for a safe landing, but local law enforcement isn’t allowed to use it.

“Right now, that technology is very limited to certain federal agencies,” Lugo said. “We have heard and seen situations where federal agencies are at places like stadiums using this technology, but we don’t have much information on that.”

Authorization for federal agencies to take control of drones expires Oct. 5.

The White House proposes giving more law enforcement access to the technology, but there are concerns in Congress about civil liberties.

FAA officials said they are investigating the Lumen Field drone incursion but said they did not receive a report about the situation at Husky Stadium.

University of Washington officials said the drone over Husky Stadium on Saturday was not their drone, as originally reported.

It was also very much unauthorized.