(Source: USA Today)
Onboard cameras might soon have competition in motor sports. Welcome to airborne coverage.
USA TODAY Sports got an exclusive look Friday at drone testing as motorcycles flew around Lucas Oil Stadium, and the view was uniquely vertical. Fox Sports 2 will show off the technology in Saturday night’s Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series broadcast (7 p.m. ET).
Drones have certainly branched out from military use, and they’re gradually being prepped for prime time sports. ESPN had them in limited action at the recent X Games; indoors was the next step.
It took layers of approval from lawyers and risk management types to fly three eight-propeller drones in the mostly empty home of the Indianapolis Colts. Feld Entertainment, which owns Supercross, simulated a race with six riders.
Todd Jendro, Feld’s vice president of operations, said it was no easy task to pull the constituents together for even a few minutes of dirt jumping with drones hovering.
“Our people were like, ‘Oh, my god, you’re going to do what?’ ” he said, laughing. “But we’re a sport that needs to push the boundaries of technology in sports, be cutting edge, lead by example.
“This goes hand in hand with that.”
This test utilized the equipment of HeliVideo, a company based in Austin, Texas. Each drone, which cost $25,000, had a camera mounted on its bottom side and a receiver on its top. Licensed pilots flew them from vantage points at the edge of the track.
The drones flew above and alongside the riders, with the most dynamic shot being at eye level.
“Better than we could have hoped for,” said Brad Cheney, director of technical operations for Fox Sports.
In a stadium, bikes travel upwards of 40 mph, and the drones easily kept pace. When the riders simulated a start, a drone stared them down from 20 yards out, then beat them to the first turn, swooping in behind to catch the view of flying dirt.
Alan is serial entrepreneur, active angel investor, and a drone enthusiast. He co-founded DRONELIFE.com to address the emerging commercial market for drones and drone technology. Prior to DRONELIFE.com, Alan co-founded Where.com, ThinkingScreen Media, and Nurse.com. Recently, Alan has co-founded Crowditz.com, a leader in Equity Crowdfunding Data, Analytics, and Insights. Alan can be reached at alan(at)dronelife.com