Last week, the FAA granted the NFL legal permission to fly drones. The FAA's authorized over a thousand businesses to fly drones, but the NFL is the first major sporting league granted such permission. The rights extend to data collection and video capture, but are limited to times when teams aren't playing. The FAA specifically noted that drones are safer than manned aircraft for this, saying:
the FAA found that the enhanced safety achieved using an unmanned aircraft (UA) with the specifications described by the petitioner and carrying no passengers or crew, rather than a manned aircraft of significantly greater proportions, carrying crew in addition to flammable fuel, gives the FAA good cause to find that the UAS operation enabled by this exemption is in the public interest.
The permission granted from the FAA includes the same 31 standard clauses the FAA has for every drone authorization, whether it's a modified paper airplane or every single already-authorized drone. These include a 400-foot altitude limit, a 100-mph top speed, and a 55-pound weight limit. The NFL can legally fly DJI Phantom 1, DJI Phantom 2, and DJI Inspire drones.
The NFL, and NFL Film, the specific part of the organization that will fly the drones, included in their request a note that they will only fly drones over empty stadiiums or during practice with the permission of everyone inside:
NFL Films proposes that it receive an exemption to use sUAS [small unmanned aerial systems, or quadcopters] to gather footage from closed-set locations in and around NFL stadiums (on non-game days) and NFL practice facilities. NFL Films would use the footage for the production of television programs. NFL Films would obtain the consent of all personnel in the stadiums and practice facilities in the vicinity in which the sUAS may operate.
For game days, this change means very little. For ads that play during commercial breaks, expect to see a lot more aerial photography.