University of Tennessee coach Butch Jones wanted to get an eagle-eye view of his players but apparently didn’t have the resources to spend it on the kinds of expensive, cable-suspended Skycam equipment used by broadcasters. Instead, he sent up a drone, in what appears to be the first — or one of the first — uses of unmanned aerial vehicles in college football.
A Vine (above) showing the coaches warming up the drone for practice immediately started making the rounds on sports blogs. According to Outside magazine, military drone technology was quickly adopted by the entertainment industry, and is becoming more pervasive for aerial footage. “Even at upwards of $5,000 per day, a drone runs a fraction of the cost of a helicopter rental,” explains Joe Spring.
A number of policymakers are proposing moratoriums on low-surveillance drones, until privacy laws can catch up to the quickly evolving technology. But flying cameras are completely legit for sports. Interestingly, Coach Jones credits the experiment to a Google-style mass-innovation approach to management:
“It’s a number of guys. It’s our support staff, it’s [Sports Technology Coordinator] Joe Harrington. It’s everyone just always trying to make the program better each and every day. That’s the culture that we’re building here. It doesn’t matter if it’s our secretaries, our equipment staff, our training staff, or our cooks. How can we make Tennessee football better each and every day?”