The golf industry is in trouble and drone solutions may be able to fly in and save the day. Golf rounds played dropped 4.9 percent in 2013 according to a report by the National Golf Foundation. The high cost of entry as well as the decline of middle-class buying power, has led to an increase in course closures over the past decade.
As in many industries, drones may help revive the game by offering better marketing solutions via aerial videography as well as more efficient ways to maintain the greens.
Ryan English of aerial imaging company FlyMotion Media reports in the Tampa Bay Tribune that the cost of filming a golf course via UAVs is much less expensive than hiring a manned helicopter. “I’ve heard some estimates of over $10,000 to get a helicopter for a day and that does not include the camera or the production team or editing or anything else, he said. “Drones are so affordable that even the smallest golf course in the smallest town can use one.”
The Tribune also reports that courses like the Eagles Golf Club in Odessa, Fla. have commissioned video drone companies to create virtual tours of the course “so players can better understand how to approach each hole before teeing off.” At Eagles, the golf pro also narrates advice for each hole on the video.
Given the increasing tendency of cities and counties to ration or to limit water use, golf superintendents face new challenges to more closely and efficiently monitor course conditions. Boston-based GreenSight is developing a UAV solution that overflies a golf course twice a day, processing the images captured by the drone to alert superintendents to low moisture conditions, pest infections or fungal outbreaks.
“In talking with golf superintendents, we determined there was significant pressure on them to reduce water and chemical usage,” says Joel Pedlikin, COO and cofounder of GreenSight. “We wanted to develop a product that helped them save money and improve their environmental impact without eating into their extremely busy schedules.” CloudSight is currently offering imagery overflight services on a trial basis as well as taking beta customer reservations for the fully automated system.
Here are a few UAV models perfect for teeing off the best drone aerial system for golf courses:
3D Robotics offers a top-of-the-line, GoPro-ready UAV in its IRIS+ model. IRIS+ features the amazing Pixhawk autopilot system that enables agile, autonomous flight, thanks to its two-axis gimbal. Although it doesn’t ship with a GoPro, users can order a Go-Pro Hero3+ Silver HD camera as an option. The IRIS+ boasts an Automatic Mission Planning mode in which pilots can chart a predetermined flight plan using an Android device with the free DroidPlanner app.
If you’re looking for a higher-end UAV, look no further than the Phantom 2. The drone offers semi-autonomous flight patterns and longer flight times than the first generation of Phantoms. It includes the Naza-M V2 GPS controlled autopilot system which features “position and altitude hold as well as the ‘return to home’ failsafe.” With a 2.4 Ghz Remote Control Receiver (with a range of 1 km), speeds up to 15 m/s (horizontal) and 6 m/s (vertical),a 5200mAH LiPo battery capable of a flight time of 25 min, high Intensity LED lights under each arm and self-tightening propellers, the Phantom 2 ranks highly in the ranks of the mid-priced market.
Like a faithful puppy – albeit with four copter rotors rather than legs – the Airdog by Latvian company Helico is eager to follow its sporting owner anywhere – even off a cliff. Marketed as an action sports UAV, the Airdog autonomously follows the jumps and jolts of off-road motorcyclists, surfers, snowboarders and skiers capturing their gravity-defying moves with a high-quality GoPro Action camera. So, the drone can obviously handle a sport as sedate as golf too. “The AirDog always keeps you in the center of the frame, and remains stable, to ensure that you always get reliable, steady video from the sky, each time you use it,” the company’s website states. $1,275 (pre-order)
Hexo+ sports some of the same features as other “follow-me” sports models but with a twist – the UAV is attuned to follow movements rather than a GPS waypoint and will fly a predetermined parameter. A user can simply “pinch and set” a course using an available app and touch screen controller on a smart device to frame shots. Developed by Squadrone System, Hexo+ made a seriously splash in the crowdfunding pond in June, surpassing the $50,000 pledge mark in 37 minutes With a projected flight tracking speed up to 45 mph, the Hexo+ will not be available until May. $949, available for pre-order
The Q500 Typhoon comes equipped with a 12MP/1080P HD camera, as well as a CGO2-GB 3 axis precision gimbal. Still photos and smooth video footage that can be saved to the its 8GB micro SD card. TheQ500’s ST10 ground station boasts a 10-channel, 2.4GHz RC transmitter featuring on-screen data telemetry display as well as a 5.8GHz video downlink. The Typhoon offers three flight modes (smart, angle, and home as well as an auto-landing function.