Buffalo Bills New Era Field Stadium Implements New Drone Ordinance

Orchard Park, New York has passed a new drone ordinance as the preseason approaches, hoping to deter irresponsible users from interrupting events.

Masashi Hara - JL/Getty Images for DAZN

Home of the NFL’s New York Buffalo Bills, the New Era Field in Orchard Park, New York has officially implemented new drone ordinances as the team’s upcoming preseason rapidly approaches. According to local publication Rochester First, the Orchard Park Police Department arrested a drone pilot who flew his UAV in the stadium’s parking lot during a U2 concert last year and encountered a crashed drone inside the New Era Field the year before that. 

These incidents, unfortunately, forced a realization that the implemented anti-drone ordinance of 2015 hadn’t deterred people from violating it, and that stronger methods were in order. 

“Local law enforcement can’t enforce federal law for the air,” Orchard Park Chief Mark Pacholec explained to Rochester First. “We can detain someone and seize stuff, turn it over to the feds but we can’t enforce it.” 

Since the FAA can enforce airspace regulations, however, the Orchard Park town board successfully managed to get more thorough rules approved last fall, allowing the local police to enforce them on the ground. “We can enforce the ground where a drone would take off from or the ground where a drone would land,” said Chief Pacholec. 

Orchard Park Town Supervisor Patrick Keem, meanwhile, feels it necessary to staunchly remind residents or visiting football fans not to break these laws, regardless of law enforcement’s newly-minted permissions. “Please don’t fly them near the stadium or major events at the stadium,” said Keem, according to Rochester First

Anyone who deploys or lands a drone within two miles of an event at New Era Field four hours before it begins or after it concludes will be subject to a $250 fine or 15 days in jail. 

“Any town-sponsored events you can’t have a drone within one mile of that event,” echoed Pacholec. “That’s for the safety of the people that are there.” 

Unfortunately, we’ve seen this sort of irresponsible drone use before, with renewed efforts on behalf of local authorities making reasonable sense. Last November, one pilot was arrested for interrupting an NFL game in San Francisco by releasing leaflets above the crowd. Earlier this year, an English soccer match was similarly interrupted, with local police quickly detaining a suspect. 

Ultimately, it seems expected for these incidents to become more frequent as recreational drone adoption increases. Hopefully these users won’t force lawmakers to ruin fairly liberal drone use for the rest of us, with a reasonable middle ground (like the one in Orchard Park) serving as enough of a legislative deterrent.