Is it a bird? A snowboarder? No, it's a drone. A drone camera follows Norway's Aleksander Aurdal during the men's ski slopestyle final at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia (AP photos)
Is it a bird? A snowboarder? No, it's a drone.
Lexile

If Lindsey Jacobellis, Nate Holland or those other snowboarders feel like something is following them at the Winter X Games, they'll be right.

ESPN is adding camera-carrying drones to its coverage of the Winter X Games, using the cutting-edge technology to cover snowboardcross and snowmobiling events this week in Aspen, Colorado.

"It's always been an event that has, in many aspects, been a working laboratory for technical innovation," said senior coordinating producer Rich Feinberg. "It's kind of like the sports here. They're all about progression and we want the coverage to progress as well."

ESPN worked for approval with several entities, including the Federal Aviation Administration, which approved the use of drones for commercial use last year.

One rule the network has to follow is to keep the drones inside a "closed-set environment." In other words, not over spectators, or anywhere near where they could interfere with incoming flights to the Aspen airport, which is little more than steps away from the Buttermilk ski area that hosts the X Games.

So, the network will put its cameras on the drones and have them hover over, aside and behind racers on sections of the snowboardcross course and at the end of the snowmobiling course. The events start Thursday, with the TV coverage planned throughout the weekend.

"Any piece of technology we feel brings viewers closer to the event, we're interested in," said Chris Calcinari, who spearheaded the approvals process for ESPN. "I don't think there are many events that would actually allow us to fly a drone. This is a big opportunity."

Last year at the Sochi Olympics, Russian officials approved drones 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 those who have used them to get different looks during workouts over the last season. But they are not allowed at games, because 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, and its technicians will operate the devices, which will be equipped with cameras that can 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, next to them, or just about anything else. We want the viewer to hopefully feel like he or she is seeing something he's never seen before. If it gets them to watch a little longer, then we've achieved our goal."

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?

Assigned 18 times


COMMENTS (30)
  • NW2000Basketball
    1/22/2015 - 08:43 a.m.

    the use of drones will change the coverage into more of a live action scene. I think this because before the camera men for ESPN couldn't get their cameras as close to the snowboarders because of the competition, but now the drones can go higher in he air and still get good up-close footage and not distract the snowboarders.

  • MitchelleM-Kan
    1/22/2015 - 11:10 a.m.

    The use of drones to cover events such as X Games is a fantastic idea. It will give the viewers and home a more up-close view, captivating them. I believe it could be deemed on of the more innovative things media has done.

  • NatalieM-Kan
    1/22/2015 - 11:22 a.m.

    The drones that are going to be used in the Winter X Games this year in my opinion will increase the chance of more people watching this competition. It will give the viewers a better look at what is going on during the X Games. Viewers will also be more involved in the action that is happening.

  • jacob.francel46
    1/22/2015 - 12:48 p.m.

    I think that putting drone into the winter X games is an amazing idea. It will give us a better 3rd Person view of the snow boarder and will be more exciting. I don't know why they don't use them in the NFL instead of having camera's running back and forth on cables. It would give us a better view.

  • TaylorHartman-Ste
    1/22/2015 - 12:59 p.m.

    It is pretty cool that the snowboarders and other winter games sports have portable video cameras that get to film the athletes very closely and understand their exact technique.

  • TehyaWhite-Ste
    1/22/2015 - 01:00 p.m.

    I like this idea because it'll be move coverage of events and there will be different angles to look at the sports. However, I hate how drones are being used for everything now days. It's like one day robots are going to take over the world.

  • Kandie_Kane_299
    1/22/2015 - 02:12 p.m.

    I think that this is an excellent idea. It will give better coverage, will use less equipment, and can get different angles that were previously impossible.

  • Ashlynn1048
    1/22/2015 - 02:12 p.m.

    These new drones for the X Games are definitely cool! I think that they'll bring in some new viewers and keep old ones interested. These could also be used for other sports, even things not related to sports. These drones will defiantly be a cool new point of view to see things from.

  • EthanI-5
    1/22/2015 - 07:14 p.m.

    Drones are now being used to record stuff. They are using them to look at places were we could not see before. Hopefully the will be used to deliver packages and other stuff like that.

  • CapeleyZ-1
    1/22/2015 - 09:04 p.m.

    This article is about how drones are going to be used at the coming up X games. ESPN is going to be one of the networks broadcasting the winter games and they though using drones would be a good idea because it will get more people to watch the event. Although this idea is great there are many limitations on it such as it not being able to go over people and the drones must also stay away from a nearby airport. I think that it is smart to have new ways of filming but I also think that although it is good to have them above the athletes it might interfere with them if the drones are filming them from the front.

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