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NFL Is First League to Fly Drones With FAA Permission - But Not Over Games

The NFL will be the first major sports organization to fly drones over its fields with the FAA's blessing - but it can't shoot games.

The NFL is the first major sports organization to receive permission from the FAA to fly drones over its fields — but that permission comes with serious limitations.

The FAA's response (PDF) to the league's request for a drone "exemption" (meaning an exception to the general rule that drones can't be used for commercial purposes) specifies not just the circumstances when flying a drone over a football field will be permitted, but the makes and models that can be used.

The FAA has proposed a basic set of rules for how drones can be used in commercial endeavors, but they have yet to be finalized, so for now companies and organizations must petition individually for permission.

Related: FAA Proposes Rules for Routine Commercial Use of Drones

Only three models of DJI Phantom, a popular camera-toting quadcopter line, can be used, only during the day and with strict supervision and proper permits. But the biggest limitation is that drones can't be used during games.

It was too much to think that suddenly the NFL would be permitted to fly 50-pound drones over tens of thousands of people — and that's not really what the league needed anyway. These aerial shots will be used for commercials, team promos and documentaries — but not practice, although the advantage of using a birds-eye view for training can't be lost on coaches nationwide.