Some may consider drones to be annoying and noisy, but in the next few years, drones are going to become quiet, small, safe and almost effortless to fly. And because of these changes, drones will also change the way sports are covered by the media. Why? Well, drones are the perfect action cameras. Like many of the athletes they film, drones can defy physical limitations. They are more flexible and spontaneous than media camera rigs. They can film pretty much anywhere: a cliff face, over open water, or behind a dirt bike moving at 60 mph. Drones can mimic the way athletes move and with the ability to do that, drones can obtain footage beyond typical sports coverage. Drones can convey not only the image but also the feeling of the movement we are watching.
The thrill of sports often comes from the extreme physical challenges: speed, height, strength, distance and terrain. Static or handheld cameras can’t keep up, and most rigs can’t quite communicate the spontaneity of the sport it’s trying to capture. Drones excel at that stuff –they can capture spontaneous movement as well as extreme speeds, heights and distances. For example, while surfing is certainly popular in the United States, the public doesn’t have a large population who like watching it. One reason that surfing hasn’t broken into mainstream broadcasts is that it’s difficult to visually capture it. While a camera can certainly capture video footage from a helicopter above the water, a drone can get a camera directly over the surfer and track exactly with a surfer’s every move –and do it safely.
Another example –football realized the benefits of the cable camera a long time ago, but even with this aerial perspective the public is only able to get static views. Drones can move in three dimensions and can spontaneously react to plays in real time (the way the cable camera does but in a much cheaper way). Today, some NFL teams have received permission to use drones during practices.
Of course, much like other industries and fields, the sports arena still faces issues with no fly zones and special permissions from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to fly drones over certain events and certain areas and airspace. While there is still a long way to go, drones are surely paving the way for a new way to experience sports and athletes across the board.