UTPD investigates drone over Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium

Natalie Sullivan

UTPD is investigating an incident involving a drone that flew over Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on Saturday night during the Longhorns’ first football game of the season.

Drones, also referred to as unmanned aerial vehicles, are aircraft without a human pilot on board. They are controlled by onboard computers or remote control, and used in surveillance, law enforcement, photography and military operations.

UTPD spokeswoman Cindy Posey said police observed an unauthorized drone in and around the stadium during the game against the University of North Texas and watched as it maneuvered and landed on San Jacinto Boulevard.

Officers located the operator, a UT student, who was detained and transported to the police station, Posey said. The student was then identified, questioned and released pending further investigation.

According to Posey, officers seized and confiscated the drone.

“Our top priority is the safety our students, employees, fans and visitors,” UTPD said in a statement. “UTPD Chief David Carter stresses that we are concerned about the use of drones and are investigating the incident thoroughly. The University continually works with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to maintain the highest levels of safety on our campus.”

Laws governing drones are still evolving, and they are currently regulated under state law with the same guidelines that apply to model airplanes, although the Federal Aviation Administration has some oversight.

The FAA permits model aircraft to fly below 400 feet if they are away from airports and air traffic and stay within sight of the operator.

Under Texas state law, drone pilots are required to have permission from property owners to shoot aerial images of their property, with violations costing offenders up to $1,000 for every image they take.

Posey said since the incident is still under investigation, it is uncertain whether the student will face charges or possible fines.