Flyovers at football games usually fea- ture a B-2 Stealth Bomber or a forma- tion of F-16s. But the aerial spectacle during halftime at Super Bowl LI in February showcased 300 drones form- ing an American flag image above
Lady Gaga as she sang “God Bless America” be-
fore she dropped by trapeze harness into Houston’s
Drones are playing a growing role in sports events—
both for aerial video coverage and visual spectacle.
Here are five ways that drones are having an impact:
Broadcasting. ESPN has used drones during X
Games broadcasts, and Fox has used them for both
an AMA Supercross event and golf’s U.S. Open,
where HeliVideo of Austin, Texas, provided the drone
coverage. Eight-rotor drones with 100-millimeter
lenses enabled the company’s operators to maintain
the mandatory 500-foot distance required for sound
isolation, said Eric Austin, HeliVideo’s founder.
Video promotion. Bear Pond Productions in
Cambridge, Vermont, has three drone subcontractors it hires to capture aerial footage of skiing and
snowboarding at several resorts. The team shoots,
edits and broadcasts on the same day, said owner
Matt Richardson. The short videos have timestamps
to show surface conditions in order to entice skiers to
buy lift tickets, he said. Bear Pond makes about 25
of the aerial videos annually. A one-day shoot with
setup and breakdown costs about $60 per hour for
the drones and $80 per hour for actual shooting and
editing, averaging about $1,000 per job. Drone technology offers “a great perspective that you can’t get
with a traditional setup like a tripod or a monopod or
ladder,” said Richardson.
Sports training. Soccer teams like the MLS Seattle Sounders and Everton F.C. use drones to film
training and practices. According to Arch Aerial in
Houston, football teams in the Pac- 12 and other major conferences use drones to get aerial views of formations during practices.
Entertainment. Because of FAA regulations, Lady
Gaga’s performance beneath the drones at Super
Bowl LI was filmed earlier in the week. Those same
lightweight Intel Shooting Star drones, which boast
4 billion color combinations, have been featured in
the Starbright Holidays light show at Disney World
in Orlando. At the 2017 NBA Dunk Contest in New
Orleans, an Intel hexicopter dropped a pass to Aaron
Gordon, a forward with the Orlando Magic, who then
dunked the ball.
Drone racing. Drone sports were one of the three
main themes at September’s FAI International Drones
Conference and Expo in Lausanne, Switzerland. And
for the second year, ESPN broadcast competition
from the Drone Racing League. The league’s first-person view offers a thrilling perspective as the drones
dip and dive at 85 mph through and around obstacles on the race course. The new drones used in the
second season accelerate from 0 to 80 mph in less
than one second, according to the league. ; J.C.
5WAYS DRONES ARE CHANGING EVENTS
> Drone Racing League recently finished its second season.