US FAA designates Las Vegas area ‘No Drone Zone’ for Super Bowl

February 4, 2024 - 3:52 PM
A sign at a downtown city park informs people the area is a no drone zone in San Diego, California, U.S., May 17, 2018. (Reuters/Mike Blake/File Photo)

 The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said on Friday it is designating the Las Vegas Area a “No Drone Zone” for the Feb. 11 Super Bowl as officials tighten security precautions before the National Football League championship game.

The NFL and other U.S. sports leagues have backed a bid by the White House for expanded powers from Congress to detect and disable threatening drones.

“Without a change in federal law, mass gatherings will remain at risk from malicious and unauthorized drone operations,” the NFL said in November after a drone disrupted a game in Baltimore. “It’s time for Congress to act.”

The FAA said game-day restrictions will begin at 11 a.m. PT (1900 GMT) within two nautical miles around Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas up to 2,000 feet (609 meters) in altitude and expand from 2:30-8:30 p.m. to a 30-nautical-mile radius and up to 18,000 feet in altitude. There are also restrictions around the stadium and two casino hotels at times in the days before the Super Bowl.

Congress in 2018 expanded authority of the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security to disable or destroy threatening drones, which are formally known as unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). The Biden administration says Congress needs to renew existing authority and expand its powers as the number of registered drones jumps.

The sports leagues previously said expansion of drone authority “will play an important role in helping to ensure the safety of major sporting events, including the safety of the millions of American fans who attend these events each year.”

Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brad Wiegmann told the Senate in 2022 that “outdoor mass gatherings, like open-air sports stadiums, are particularly vulnerable to drone attacks.”

The sports leagues praised the Biden plan to “implement a pilot program extending counter-drone authority, under appropriate oversight and training, to certain state and local law enforcement officials involved in protecting mass gatherings at sporting events.”

The FBI has conducted dozens of drone and counter-drone protection operations at large events like the Super Bowl since 2018.

— Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Bill Berkrot