Is it a bird? A snowboarder? No, it's a drone.
Some snowboarders might feel like something is following them at the Winter X Games. And they'll be right.
ESPN is adding camera-carrying drones to its coverage. The network is using the technology to cover snowboardcross and snowmobiling events. The X Games are this week in Aspen, Colorado.
"It's kind of like the sports here," said ESPN senior coordinating producer Rich Feinberg. "They're all about progression. And we want the coverage to progress as well."
ESPN worked for approval with several entities. Those included the Federal Aviation Administration.
Operating the drones comes with rules. The drones cannot fly over spectators. Or anywhere near where they could interfere with incoming flights. The Aspen airport is little more than steps away from the Buttermilk ski area. That area hosts the X Games.
The network will put its cameras on the drones. They will hover over, aside and behind racers. The drones will follow the action on sections of the snowboardcross course and at the end of the snowmobiling course. The events start Thursday. TV coverage is planned throughout the weekend.
Last year at the Sochi Olympics, Russian officials approved drones. They were used to help get shots of snowboard and ski jumping events.
Drones have also been making appearances at more football practices. Miami, Louisville, UCLA and Tennessee are among colleges that have used them. The idea is to get different looks during workouts. But they are not allowed at games. Regulations don't allow flying over stadiums.
Colleges use drones to help football players
ESPN works with a company that specializes in taking video with drones. That company's technicians will operate the devices. The cameras on the drones will feed footage back to the main truck.
"I'm as excited as anyone to see what this looks like," Feinberg said. "You can picture them flying in front of the pack of racers. Or just about anything else. We want the viewer to hopefully feel like he or she is seeing something he's never seen before."
Critical thinking challenge: How will the use of drones change ESPN's coverage? Which part of ESPN's coverage may be reduced to make room for coverage from drones?