Many industries are starting to explore a new area for drone operations – the sports industry. Slowly, but surely, the use of drones for live sports coverage is expanding. In 2014, drones were used to film skiing and snowboarding events at the Winter Olympics, as well as at the Formula One Races, the X Games, and the AMA Supercross. The NFL currently uses CableCam systems (i.e. a computer –controlled and cable-suspended camera system hovering above the field), but these CableCam systems take a very long time to set up, are very expensive, and have limited scopes of vision due to the cable-suspended camera system.
So why doesn’t the NFL (and other sports leagues) start using more drones for better coverage? Well, as currently written, the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) drone regulations make it quite difficult to operate drones in stadiums, arenas and other sports venues. The biggest issue with drone operation in these areas is safety and privacy of the crowds surrounding these games and matches. However, commercial drone operators can apply for a FAA 333 Exemption certificate (i.e. an airworthiness certificate for certain drones to perform commercial operations prior to the finalization of the FAA small drone rule) to operate a drone for sports coverage purposes. But these FAA 333 Exemptions are few and far between due to the safety issues and room for operator errors. As drone use continues to expand, drone developers will continue to work on safety measures and privacy practices that will integrate drones into live sports broadcast in a more efficient way. For now, we will keep watching the games, and keep watching the skies.