ESPN is planning to fire up some camera-equipped quadcopters this weekend in an effort to offer viewers some cool shots of the four-day Winter X Games event in Aspen, Colorado.
The sports channel is hoping to provide live drone-shot footage of events such as snowboard cross and snowmobiling, though strict regulations put down by the Federal Aviation Administration demand some careful planning on behalf of ESPN.
For example, the production team can only fly an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) inside a “closed-set environment,” in other words well away from crowds of spectators. This still gives plenty of opportunities for drone-taken footage along certain sections of the courses, though their use also depends on favorable weather conditions.
Speaking to the Associated Press about the channel’s new equipment, Chris Calcinari, VP of remote operations at ESPN, said, “Any piece of technology we feel brings viewers closer to the event, we’re interested in.”
He added, “I don’t think there are many events that would actually allow us to fly a drone. This is a big opportunity.”
ESPN is working with a firm that specializes in drone photography, likely one of the few movie and TV companies that last November secured permission from the FAA to use UAVs to capture imagery for commercial purposes.
CNN more recently announced it’d struck a deal with the FAA to allow it to test drones for filming news events, though it could still be some time before we get to see breaking news relayed by a camera-equipped quadcopter.
FAA regulations governing the commercial use of drones are extremely strict, leading many businesses to call for the agency to move more quickly in implementing new guidelines for their operation.
Very few companies currently have permission to use the flying machines commercially, though with big names like ESPN and CNN helping to highlight the issue, as well as Congress last year ordering the FAA to come up with a comprehensive set of UAV rules by September this year, many U.S.-based businesses wishing to make use of the technology are hoping to see real progress in 2015.