Is it a bird? A snowboarder? No, it's a drone.
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.
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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?

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Assigned 18 times

  • jarreds-Koc
    1/27/2015 - 04:22 p.m.

    It will significantly change how we see sprotes, especially at the X-Games. The use of drones will make the games even better to watch. I am looking forward to watching the x-gmaes this year.

  • TrinityARainbow
    1/27/2015 - 05:31 p.m.

    This is cool. Soon there are going to be drones every where! Drones are going to be recording all sports events! I wish that I had a drone.

  • DD2001green
    1/28/2015 - 08:42 a.m.

    It can get closer and better video live. And it will be easier to follow play by play. The drone is controlled by a person. So the person can be anywhere around the game.

  • Damikus123
    1/28/2015 - 01:23 p.m.

    this article is about X-Game drones. In the winter X-games this year, camera drones will be used to get aerial footage of contestants. ESPN has helped getting this program up and running, and drones have been used for many other sports' coverage. I think this is a really cool and innovative way to film sports.

  • williaml-DiB
    1/29/2015 - 02:06 p.m.

    drones are pretty cool. they have cool technology built into them. they are able to travel very very far away to other places. drones could help peoplediscover stuff or see where they cant go

  • ReneT-Jac
    1/29/2015 - 02:14 p.m.

    I have a feeling drones are going to soon start doing human tasks. I have a drone myself(DJI Vision 2) and I use it for real estate Ariel photography. As I said drones are taking human tasks. Fed Ex, a delivery company, tested using drones to deliver mail! Welcome to the future!

  • DylanA-Jac
    1/29/2015 - 03:03 p.m.

    Rene I really also think that drones will be doing human tasks. I also thunk that they are making way bigger ones to use in the service to like drop bombs and stuff.

  • dilan.76
    1/30/2015 - 12:56 p.m.

    I think drones are really cool they can video the riders/people they can hover over them and video and see if they made a mistake just like some of the NFL teams do. The teams in the NFL use the drones to help them with their training. They also use them to do some commercials they used them to do X-Games to get photos of the snowboarders and the skiers.

  • luiss-DiB
    2/25/2015 - 10:28 a.m.

    Drones have been used for home entertainment all over the world, its about time they start using this drones for commercial usage. This new technology can change the way we watch tv or movies.

  • luiss-DiB
    2/25/2015 - 10:33 a.m.

    Drones have been used for home entertainment all over the world, its about time they start using this drones for commercial usage. This new technology can change the way we watch tv or movies.

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