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Volume 22 No. 23
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Keeping stadiums’ skies friendly

Mets security officers found drone traffic around Citi Field had been underreported.
GETTY IMAGES

Drone security / Dedrone

The skies are getting crowded with drones, and the threat of strapping weapons to those flying machines has teams searching for defense mechanisms to protect their facilities.

Dedrone, one company addressing the issue, supplies technology to detect unauthorized drones and identify the pilots. The firm has two sports clients. One is the New York Mets, who use Dedrone’s system to conduct aerial surveillance around Citi Field.

The system’s software platform connects to sensors and video cameras attached to the ballpark’s infrastructure. Since its activation in April 2016, the Mets have discovered more drones invading their airspace than they initially suspected, according to Bobby Long, Dedrone’s vice president of sales.

“The Mets’ security people were getting reports of one to two drones a month,” Long said. “They invested a small amount of money to figure out if they had a bigger problem. What they found out was it was actually one to two drones a day in their airspace.”

The Mets, whose case study is documented on Dedrone’s website, declined to comment. Long would not disclose the team’s investment other than to say initial costs can run below $20,000 to install the system. Teams could potentially spend up to $1 million for the most comprehensive network, Long said.

Under federal law, it’s illegal to sabotage a drone in flight. As a result, teams and venues are caught in a tight spot trying to protect their patrons, Long said. The drone detection systems now on the market are the first step for resolving threats to fan safety.

Dedrone’s system allows the Mets to identify a drone, track its flight path back to the pilot and record video evidence for further investigation. As laws change, teams may have the ability in the future to jam a drone’s signals through various methods, including the installation of virtual fences that send them back to their point of origin.

“A lot of the stadiums we’re talking to are finding out the issue is more about putting a system in place that can help you solve the problem before it becomes a bigger problem,” Long said. “The bad guys do their research with test flights.”

Dedrone’s other sports account is a Big 12 Conference school, which company officials could not identify after signing a nondisclosure agreement.

Dedrone officials expect to sign a few dozen sports deals over the next year, Long said.