Drones have opened up a new world of possibilities in various industries and professions, and recently this has expanded to include professional sports. In the past few years various amateur and professional teams, from North America to Europe, have come to discover the coaching benefits offered by drones. Teams are always looking for that competitive edge over their opponents, and it’s no wonder that many have invested in drones to record their training sessions. Drone Life explains that drones provide a pivotal advantage, as they enable coaches to see the game from different perspectives in order to develop new tactics and strategies. As a direct result, drones are quickly being adopted by today’s more progressive and forward-thinking coaches to help train athletes and enable teams to work more efficiently together.
In the United States, the NFL became the first major sports organization to use drones in 2015, with the blessing of the FAA. In 2016, the Dallas Cowboys became the first NFL franchise to be given the green light by the FAA to use drones for training sessions. The bird’s eye view angle provided by a drone was unprecedented; providing a wide angle that can range from end zone to end zone. It also allows coaches to view the play from multiple angles, which gives them the opportunity to effectively show players where they fit on the field in relation to their teammates, and better understand team doctrine. Cowboys’ head coach Jason Garrett told the Dallas Business Journal that the drone angle is very advantageous, as it gives you a chance to see all 11 players on offence and all 11 on defense, from a lower, wider angle.
In a similar fashion, the University of Miami football team, the Hurricanes, have also seen the advantages that drone footage can provide its players. As a freshman quarterback, Brad Kaaya was scrambling to learn the ways of the Miami playbook and the nuances of college football. When the Hurricanes began using drone technology to record their practices, it became an essential teaching tool for both the team and Kaaya. Training with the Hurricane’s offensive coordinator James Coley, who would go over drone video footage in detail, allowed Kaaya to see and better understand his tactical positioning and improve his game. The training clearly paid off as he received recognition as Rookie of the Year, and set multiple school records for a first-year player.
Across the Atlantic, English soccer club Charlton Athletic is making use of drones to coach both the youth and first teams. Coach David Powderly is leading the way in drone coaching as he believes there is no better way to analyze a game than from above. Powderly was inspired to use drone technology in 2015, after witnessing a Champions League match between Barcelona and Bayern Munich. Alongside the usual match cameras, an overhead drone camera caught a birds eye view of the game. This angle allowed Powderly to see the positions of both teams on the pitch in one shot. His best example of the effectiveness of drone footage was when he was trying to explain tactical positioning to a central midfielder. It wasn’t until he reviewed the video with his player that the idea finally clicked. Powderly said that the player’s reaction was one of revelation referring to the many times he was out of position.
Coaches and managers only get a side-view of the action, which is very limiting and is prone to tactical misinterpretation. The Liverpool Echo reported that Premier League clubs like Everton are making use of the innovative drone technology to gain a new perspective on the team’s shape in both defense and attack. Managers can see how hard each player is working and analyze the game in greater depth. So far the use of drones in training has been limited in England with many clubs, and the national team, not yet adopting it. Everton’s number one goalkeeper, Jordan Pickford, may be able to bring the lessons learnt from drone training to the England training camp in time for the summer’s World Cup in Russia. As the technology becomes more widely accepted expect to see many more teams, and maybe even the national team, start using drones.
Drone use is also popular in baseball, where even the smallest tactical advantage can mean the difference between a successful or abysmal season. Major League Baseball teams like the Miami Marlins and Washington Nationals are using drones to film their practices to gain a better understanding of the game. The drone can be used to track each player individually as well as provide a full view of the field to improve outfield tactical positioning. To complement drone footage, players are also given individual cameras, which are mounted on their helmets, in an effort to study their techniques from a different perspective. The drone footage can then be analyzed on a player-by-player basis to help improve batting, pitching and catching techniques. They can also be used more effectively with computer simulations to determine the best positions and tactics against individual rival teams.
As well as providing a great aerial view to help teams gain tactical advantages, the latest models can follow individual fast-moving players from different angles, providing a wealth of usable coaching data and sport-wide applications. Drones can be programmed to “race” alongside track and field athletes, with the video being used to develop better running techniques and correct bad habits early on. As we mentioned on Quadcopter Arena, drones can even be used in the sport of fishing to help anglers improve their craft. With drones, anglers can increase their casting distance, allowing them to fish farther out in lakes. A drone can also detect shoals of fish quicker and help determine the best spot to reel a catch, due to its bird’s eye view. With the many advantages of using drone video footage in sport, wide-spread use will only increase in the coming years and help advance the science of coaching.
Credit: RJ Sports Technology Blog