A Guide to Using Drones for Filming Sport

By Duncan Ritchie

17-June-2021 on Tips

12 minute read

Drones have many uses. They can be used to control traffic in big cities, for cinematography and photography without the use of a helicopter and, of course, for filming sports and training sessions.

 

Advanced technology has always been used in sport and, these days, you’d be more surprised if you didn’t see a drone flying over a major sports event. Video footage offered to us by drones shows the action from an angle that would have been completely unthinkable a few short years ago.

In this article, we’ll go into the practicalities of using drones for sports video analysis. We’re not going to give you recommendations for which drones to buy, so, if that’s what you’re looking for, check out this article on our top 5 drones for sports analysis.

 

Without further ado, let’s get started...

filming sports with drones

 

The Advantages of Filming with Drones

 

The use of this device opens a world of possibilities to us. Obviously, the more time and money we invest in this technology, the more possibilities we’ll have. A clear example of this is the analyst Fran Lara, who has been perfecting his methodology of analysis with drones for several years and has been a great help to us when writing this article.

 

Cover All the Angles

 

The main advantage of working with drones is the ability to position a camera in a place which allows you to see the action you want to analyze more clearly. If you want a birds-eye view of the entire field, the drone can hover above the players allowing you to see everything at once.

 

cover all the angles with drones

 

On the other hand, if you are interested in analyzing corner kicks or other set pieces, it’s extremely easy to adjust the position and height of the drone in order to clear view of the relevant action.

 

Simple!

 

No Need for Special Workstations

 

How many times have you arrived at a sports field to find that the space assigned for your analysis work is completely inappropriate? Makeshift computer tables, no electrical outlets, etc.


drone analysis set up at stadium

With a drone, this problem simply doesn’t exist as you can set up practically anywhere...even outside the stadium! Find a place where you can work comfortably and send your drone skywards!

 

Alternating Angles

 

If you’ve been working with drones for a while and invested more deeply in drone tech, then you can go one step further and capture images from different sources simultaneously. If your colleagues in the coaching staff also work with drones, it’s possible to coordinate your work to get an even fuller view of the action. For example, one of you can get a full field shot while the other focuses exclusively on the attacking zone from the side.

 

If you combine this with the typical TV or baseline view from static cameras you have set up around the field, you have an even better chance of catching all the angles. You can even do this in real-time if conditions and resources allow it.

 

In the case of Fran Lara, his work is usually carried out via a combination of images from drones and fixed cameras running through his Nacsport Elite-enabled computer. Elite allows the analyst to work with more than 2 angles at the same time, so he can analyze the action from three different angles in real-time and send those videos to the bench when needed.

 

filming with drones and fixed cameras

 

Other Combinations

 

Working with a drone also allows you to get the most out of resources you already have. For example, if your drone is capable of holding and iPad or iPhone, you can film using the devices camera and, using the Nacsport Tag&view app, send those images directly to the analysts computer in real-time.

 

sports filming drones set up

 

As you can see, there are many advantages to using drones, regardless of the resources you have and working with drones is absolutely compatible with analyzing with Nacsport.

 

Some Things to Take into Account

 

Ok, so there are many advantages about using drones, now let’s turn our attention to the difficulties.

 

One of the main problems is that, depending where you are in the world, you may need a license to fly them, or at least meet a series of mandated requirements. This is the main reason Fran Lara cites for the use of drones not yet having a huge uptake in professional soccer.

 

drone view of football pitch

 

Although there has been some relaxing of the rules in regards to flying drones, there will still be some bureaucracy involved, something which can be an impediment when incorporating them into your analysis work.

 

Here are a few more disadvantages:

 

Climate

 

We’re talking about lightweight devices lifted by small propellers here. Their use in heavy rain and strong winds is not recommended. The reason is simple...under these conditions, the drone may lose stability in the air, meaning that the possibility of crashing or colliding with other objects is a distinct possibility. This could incur a hefty repair bill.

 

That being said, check the manufacturers specs of your device as they all have varying wind resistances.

 

Battery Life

 

This is more of an inconvenience than a major problem, but it’s still something we need to take into account. The battery life of a mid-price drone tends to be around the 30-minute mark...not even enough to cover one half of a soccer match.

 

Additional batteries are the key here, but you need to take into consideration the filming time you’ll lose when landing the drone, recovering, changing the battery and getting it airborne again.

 

pic of drone filming sports from a drone

 

Permits

 

Ok. as we mentioned above, this is the key disadvantage of using drones...obtaining the necessary licenses and permits for flying them.

 

There are exceptions here. For example, for drones under 250 grams, you generally don’t need a permit to fly. However, drones with decent cameras for video analysis work tend to weigh more than his.

 

As we have already said, the rules and regulations regarding drone flight will differ depending on what country or region you are in, so we won’t go into great detail here but, if you are considering here are some things to research and find out about:

 

•    Permits and licences


•    No fly zones


•    Proximity to airports


•    Maximum flight heights

 

Educate yourself, get all the necessary paperwork done and you won’t have any problems when using your drone for video analysis.

 

Recommendations

 

As you can see, implementing drones in your day-to-day analysis work may not happen immediately and might require a bit of planning before you perfect the process, but we feel that it is well worth the effort.

 

drone football analysis with Nacsport

 

To wrap up this article, here’s a few recommended steps that you might want to follow:

 

Step 1

 

Choose your drone carefully and make sure your chosen machine fits your needs. Investing a little bit more money at the beginning can reap rewards in the long run.

 

Step 2

 

Research all the permits and paperwork you need to fly your drone legally.

 

Step 3

 

Before you start analyzing games in real-time, start with training sessions to get the feel of the new workflow. There will be less pressure and urgency on your part.

 

Step 4

 

Once you feel confident enough to film a live match, make sure you are well prepared. Pack a few spare batteries and any spare parts you might need. Find a place where you can set up a monitor in order to see a live feed from your drone (this is not mandatory, but we do recommend it).

 

Step 5

 

Once you’re well used to filming live, try real-time analysis with your drone. Again, ensure that you have all the equipment and spares you need, including your drone, monitor and Nacsport. Remember that it’s possible to work with more than one drone feed at a time to cover every angle on the feed and remember that Nacsport Elite is the perfect tool for this multi-angle analysis work.

 

Step 6

 

Last but not least...never stop training. Technology advances at a dizzying pace and constant betterment is essential, not only for drone handling, but for your day-to-day life as a sports analyst too.

 

Some Thank Yous

 

We hope that this text helps you get the most out of using drones for your analysis work. If you have any questions or comments regarding drones or any other aspect of sports video analysis, don’t hesitate to get in contact with us through any of our social media channels.

 

Before we go, we’d like to say a huge thank you to Fran Lara for his input into this article and for sharing his extensive knowledge with the Nacsport community.

 

And many thanks to you, the reader! Until next time, fly ‘em high...

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