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. The network is using the cutting-edge technology to cover snowboardcross and snowmobiling events. The X Games are 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. Those included the Federal Aviation Administration. It 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. Nor anywhere near where they could interfere with incoming flights to the Aspen airport. It 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. 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, 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 5 times


COMMENTS (13)
  • LAOE20LenaW
    1/27/2015 - 10:14 a.m.

    The use of drones will help ESPN's coverage by letting them see what they were never able to. For example, if they used drones at a football game they would be able to tell if the call was unfair or someone cheated. The part of ESPN's coverage may be reduced would most likely be bowling or golf. I believe these two sports are unnecessary to watch because it's kinda boring.

  • LAOE20AshtonH
    1/27/2015 - 12:06 p.m.

    This article is pretty cool. Its kind of weird that there is a drone watching you in the sky though. You never know it could be watching us right now.

  • LAOE20MadisonD
    1/27/2015 - 12:09 p.m.

    That is really cool. A drone that video tapes or takes photos of the snowboarders in Acton. I would want to have a drone following me so I can see myself in action.

  • LAOE20CodyY
    1/29/2015 - 12:53 p.m.

    The use of drones will make coverage a lot better. One reason why is because there will be more camera angles. There will be reduced ground cameras

  • LAOE20KaitlinR
    1/29/2015 - 01:18 p.m.

    Using the drones will be a big change about the problem. The ESPN is not like the drones and it will not do what the drone will do. One reason is the drone can cover more area then the ESPN can.

  • LAOE20KaitlinR
    1/29/2015 - 01:19 p.m.

    Using the drones will be a big change about the problem. The ESPN is not like the drones and it will not do what the drone will do. One reason is the drone can cover more area then the ESPN can.

  • LAOE20EricC
    1/29/2015 - 01:20 p.m.

    I think that's cool. It would also be helpful to get better footage on camera. it could also be a bad thing for all of the people who worked as a camera crew.

  • LAOE20BailleyT
    1/29/2015 - 01:20 p.m.

    The use of drones will change ESPN`s coverage by the cameras will see the drones and it will feed footage back to the main truck.

  • LAOE20MadisonD
    1/29/2015 - 01:28 p.m.

    That is really cool. To having a drone watching every thing you do up close. I would love to have one of these drones following me when I am snowboarding. I know that they video tapes of when you doing our runs but they aren't close up. Having one of these drones you can watch yourself and the drones can send the live feed to the television. That is really amazing.

  • LAOE20MadisonD
    1/29/2015 - 01:28 p.m.

    That is really cool. To having a drone watching every thing you do up close. I would love to have one of these drones following me when I am snowboarding. I know that they video tapes of when you doing our runs but they aren't close up. Having one of these drones you can watch yourself and the drones can send the live feed to the television. That is really amazing.

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