Top 5 Drones for Sports Video Analysis

By Duncan Ritchie

08-June-2021 on Tips

15 minute read

Drones seem to be ever more present in the world of sports video analysis. Analysts all over the world seem to be adding this great gadget to their arsenal of tools. And why not?


Drones allow you to see the action from angles that aren’t covered by pitch-side video cameras. They provide a birds-eye view of the action and can reveal otherwise unobtainable data.


With this in mind, here are some things to consider when adding a drone to your toolset and 5 recommendations for great drones for sports video analysis. Next week, we'll follow this up with an article on how drones can be applied directly to sports video analysis.

drone footage for sports video analysis


Things to Consider


When buying a drone, there are few different factors to consider such as flight time, range and camera quality. Obviously, this will affect the price of your chosen drone.


Flight Time


How long can your drone fly continuously without needing to charge the battery? The general rule here is that the longer the flight time, the bigger the battery and the bigger the drone.


There are drones which can fly for up to two hours at a time, but these tend to be professional film-making equipment which can run into the tens of thousands to buy. In this article, we’ll concentrate more on the commercial market in which we can generally count on these rough flight times:


•    Entry level drones: 5 - 10 minutes

•    Mid-range drones: 15 - 20 minutes 
•    High-end drones: 20 - 40 minutes


As you can see, there's no way to film a full game on a single charge, not even a full half! But with a couple of spare batteries, you’ll be fine.




How far away from the controller can the drone fly? 


This is probably the least important of the factors for a sports analyst as, generally speaking, you won’t need to fly outside the playing area you are filming. Drone range can run anywhere from 50 metres at the entry level and up to 8 km at the really top end.


drone footage of tennis court


Camera Quality


Again, this depends on your budget and needs. There are professional heavy lift octocopters on which professional cameras can be mounted and flown, but, usually, these drones are designed for professional aerial photographers. Again, these drones are very expensive and we’re going to concentrate on the more commercial side of the market in this article.


So, we’ll be looking at drones which have integrated cameras. There’s a wide range of options out there but, as always, you get what you pay for. At the high-end, your looking at cameras which can film in amazing looking 8K HDR and, at the low end, you may be looking at sub-HD video, although this may suffice, especially if you are a beginner and simply looking for a low-cost way of experimenting with drones.


Other Features


There’s a lot of jargon involved in the world of drones which can be quite intimidating to the beginner, especially when you throw in the sheer amount of acronyms on display. RTF (Read to Fly), FPV (First Person View), RTH (Return to Home)...educate yourself on what all of these mean before you buy your drone. Get a good guide such as this one to learn the jargon.




Disclaimer: Nacsport is not associated with any of the manufacturers or sellers mentioned in this list nor does it receive a commission for any sales coming as a direct result of this article. Flight times are estimates based on manufacturers specs. Prices are correct at time of publishing and based on Amazon UK and given in pounds sterling as a guide only, check your local distributor for prices in your own currency. We recommend you shop around to find the best packages and deals.


Autel EVO 2 Pro


Flight Time: 40 mins

Video Resolution: 8K HDR

Price: £1,799


Autel Evo 2


An amazingly well equipped drone which comes bundled with a multitude of spare parts and batteries. Autel claim that this is the first consumer drone that comes packaged with an 8K camera and it will easily stay in the air for 35 minutes and more.


It’s not cheap, but if you’re serious about using drones for your video analysis, this may well be the one for you.



DJI Mavic 2 Pro


Flight Time: 34 mins

Video Resolution: 4K HDR

Price: £1,339

DJI Mavic 2 Pro


DJI are one of the most trusted drone manufacturers on the market at the moment and this is not the only time they will appear on this list. The Mavic 2 Pro is a rugged drone which gives a decent flight time and great video resolution.


Packed with safety features and with a beautiful ergonomic design, this is a great drone which will definitely serve your analysis needs.



DJI Air 2S


Flight Time: 31 mins

Video Resolution: 5.4K

Price: £899

dji air2s


Another beautiful DJI drone, this machine isn’t quite as featured packed as it’s big brother above, but still has a decent flight time and is capable of producing great looking video.


Another DJI option to consider would be the DJI Mini 2 which is a smaller drone but still has a decent camera at a cheaper price (£409.99).


As we said above, DJI are currently the best known name in the world of drone flying and we would recommend any products from their Mavic, Air or Mini ranges.



Parrot Anafi


Flight Time: 30 mins

Video Resolution: 4K

Price: £455.40

parrot anafi


DJI aren’t the only drone manufacturers of course. Parrot are another respected company and the Anafi provides a great drone experience at a mid-range price. With a great camera and decent flight time, one of the best features of this drone is that it’s extremely portable.


On the other hand, we have heard some reports that the Anafi may be quite expensive to repair should you be unfortunate enough to crash it. Still, this is a great option for sports analysts who, generally, will be simply hovering about the field of play.



Potensic D58


Flight Time: 18 mins

Video Resolution: FHD 1080p

Price: £159.99

Potensic D58


Here’s our entry level drone choice. The Potensic may not have the same flight time or the UHD camera of the other drones in this article, but it still offers a decent 18 mins of air time and a Full HD video camera...and it’s much cheaper!


If you are thinking about getting into using drones for your video analysis but don’t want to lay out a lot of money, this could be the option for you. Using this drone will give you a feel for flying and show you how it can help your analysis work without breaking the bank. If you find it useful, upgrade at a later date.



Other Options


So, that’s our selection of drones but there are hundreds of other options out there, from cheap toy drones, which start at around £30, to hefty pro drones which can cost you as much as a small car.


We recommend that you think about what you need in terms of features, flight time and camera resolution, do your homework and, most importantly, shop around for the best deal. We’ll be back next week with another post dedicated to drones, showing you how they can be used for sports analysis in practice.


If you have any questions, comments or want to give your own recommendations for drones, don’t hesitate to get in contact with us.


Thanks for reading!

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