How UCLA Is Starting a Drones Arms Race in College Football–Parker Johnson

This article explains how recording and video technology advancements are becoming a spectacle to see. UCLA uses a drone technology to video tape the line of scrimmage in order to fully understand spacing and holes. There is other sky video technology, but UCLA claims that it cannot replicate the same results that drone video offers. This article mentions how drone technology is advancing in general too. AirDog, a new drone technology is fully automatic and follows a gps indicator to record. Drone technology has come a long way and  primed for even further advancements.

 

http://www.sporttechie.com/2014/08/19/how-ucla-is-starting-a-drones-arms-race-in-college-football/

How UCLA Is Starting a Drones Arms Race in College Football

ucla technology drones footballUp until this point, any mention of the word drone brings about images of the military, the popular Call of Duty video game franchise, or Star Wars. Each of which have relative underlying themes.

In fact, the word drone was popular during the 1940s, but likely to describe the low hum of aircraft during the second World War. Word usage dipped and is now becoming popular once again.

It’s 2014, as most of us know (nod to those still living in the 90’s), and sports – like the word drone – have evolved. Of course, not to the point where Hot Wheels loop tracks are commonplace in racing–not even to the point where football visors act as heads up displays (HUDs).

But sports, like football, have seen a fair share of technological advancements over the years. Long gone are the days when helmets were made of leather. The game has changed: from high tech helmets and player rehabilitation techniques, to wireless stadium infrastructure and camera ziplines.

Any tribute to how far sports have come can be made payable to technology (and the minds behind it). Now, we may be on the cusp of a new revolution in football. A revolution that involves a new use of the word “drones”.

Enter the World of Drones

Whether they are used as espionage vehicles or some crazy new way for Amazon to deliver packages to your doorstep, drones are undoubtedly useful. And because the technology behind them continues to develop, it seems new uses are just around the corner.

For instance, the football team at UCLA has their own idea of what drones can be used for.

Head coach Jim Mora explains: “Hand placement. Foot placement. Spacing. When it (the school’s drone) hovers above the line of scrimmage, you can get a real clear perspective of spacing between your offensive linemen, or differences in depth of the rush lanes of your defensive linemen.”

While elevated camera angles are often achieved by schools around the nation, zipline and scissor-lift technology has its limitations. By positioning a drone directly above the line of scrimmage, UCLA coaches are able to utilize a brand new camera angle.

At this time, UCLA seems to be the only school seriously using drone technology to gain an “intel-based” practice advantage. Other colleges, such as Kent State, insist that drones are still “a ways down the road”.

One team utilizing a technology is unique. But it also only takes one team to start a trend.

Coach Mora exclaimed: “In everything that we do, we want to be cutting edge.  We want to be on the forefront of technology.  We want to be trying to do things that other people aren’t doing yet.”

And it seems UCLA is on track to doing just that. But others outside of football are already on the bandwagon.

Game of Drones

The drone revolution is something that is slowly starting to take shape. UCLA may be at the forefront of drone usage in football, but various sports already implement the technology into their lineups.

For instance, the PGA Tour, Formula One, Australian cricket, and Brazilian Soccer have all used drones, typically for filming purposes.  Not only are drones catching on in sports, companies are finding ways to develop the technology specifically for them.

AirDog by Helico Aerospace Industries is the world’s first auto-follow drone. It’s based on extended Bluetooth technology that allows an unpiloted drone to effortlessly follow the desired action.

Unlike the professional photography drone used by the UCLA football team, the AirDog drone is completely automated. A gimbal-mounted GoPro acts as your eye in the sky.

The new drone is rather simple too. A snowboarder, surfer, or longboarder simply straps on the “AirLeash” – AirDog’s tracking device – powers it on and is ready to record. And don’t be fooled, the personal drone can be used for any type of action sport.

The entire concept is brilliant and comes with a companion app for setting height, distance, and no fly zone parameters. Additionally, the GoPro app can be used to grab a live feed from the “quadrocopter”.

But with such capabilities, it seems clear that a device like this can be adapted to sports outside of the action world.

To Each Their Drone

While the AirDog was designed with action sports in mind, it proves that drone capabilities are on the uprise. If a drone today can track and automatically record action, what might the future have in store?

As far as football is concerned, it’s easy enough to imagine how useful an automated drone might be. The center snaps the ball to the quarterback wearing the AirLeash. A three-to-five step-drop can be remotely analyzed.

After the quarterback settles in and plants his feet, an aerial view could show everything from coverages and throwing mechanics, to zone blitzes. And if you strap the AirLeash onto a wide receiver, coaches could unlock the ability to tear down player mechanics, correct, and improve upon them.

So even though UCLA appears to be one of the few teams using the current generation of drone, products like the AirDog may easily start to sweep the college football nation by storm.

That being said, there are plenty of things that need to be taken care of as far as the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) is concerned. Drones are a bit of a gray area and rules regarding them seem to be few and far between.

However, privacy, security, and safety must be taken into consideration and compensation to the drone operator or company is what can qualify drone flying as illegal or not. This means colleges may have to tread lightly while the drone trend takes off and rules become more stringent.

ucla drones college football

At the same time, Ken Norris, Director of Video Operations at UCLA and the official drone pilot, argues: “You don’t want to put these in the hands of some inexperienced kid who wants to do who knows what. The blades could probably tear somebody up. I would want a guy that’s qualified, that’s using it professionally.”

As of now, it appears that drone usage in football has a taking-off point. The main thing to watch as the revolution unfolds, though, is how the FAA and NCAA will create and sanction rules regarding drones. The last thing the NCAA needs is a Spygate scandal involving quadrocopters…(it would make a good headline, though, wouldn’t it?)

From here on out, drones are only bound to get better and teams are going to start finding new ways to use them to their advantage. It really takes two to start a trend: the originator and the first follower.

UCLA has taken the first step in the game of drones…the question is who will follow?

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