Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), have become increasingly popular in recent years, with a wide range of applications in fields such as military, agriculture, and transportation. In the world of sports, drones have also started to make their presence felt, providing a unique perspective and a variety of new possibilities for capturing and enhancing the viewing experience of live sporting events. A drone is well suited for a variety of diverse uses in sports due to its mix of aerial observation, mobility, data collecting, artificial intelligence, lifting capacity, and cameras. While some of these applications are innovative and provide sports with additional incentives, others are completely new. From capturing footage of extreme sports to delivering supplies to athletes in the middle of a race, the potential applications for drones in sports are almost limitless. In this article, we will explore the various ways in which drones are being used in sports and the potential benefits and challenges they bring.
Sports training analytics
The viewpoint provided by a bird’s eye view and a worm’s eye view are obviously different. It’s not uncommon to see managers or coaches urgently conversing with assistant coaches seated high up in the stadium while using headsets. It is simpler to analyse patterns, game tactics, and strategy from above! Drones, though, take it a step further. They have the ability to fly and are also fitted with cameras that may capture games or practise sessions. Following such a session, the recordings may be carefully examined, and changes to individual and team behaviour and strategies can be implemented. Even better, AI can provide quick feedback on what is actually happening, improving outcomes.
This study is the first to show how a drone-based video system may be used to analyse three distinct sports’ performance: soccer, ultimate frisbee, and tennis. The results demonstrate the system’s capacity to gather and provide location detection data in addition to its capacity to identify and track players from a bird’s eye perspective. Additionally, several of the location detecting technologies (such as GPS and LPS) in use today for performance analysis are employed to confirm the study’s findings. The Mavic Air 2 Model (SZ DJI Technology Co., Ltd. DJI) drone utilised in this study has a fully stabilised 3-axis gimbal, a 1/2′′ sensor camera, Obstacle Sensing, and Advanced Pilot Assistance 3.0. The video was recorded at a 24 Hz frame rate and has a 4K resolution of 3.840 x 2.160 pixels. The data was gathered in three different configurations: on a small-sided soccer field (39 m 29 m) with the drone at a height of 50 m, on an ultimate frisbee field (97.11 m 36.25 m) with the drone at a height of 85 m, and on a tennis court (23.77 m 8.23 m) with the drone hovering at a height of 27 m. A versatile software interface created in the Python programming language was used for tracking. A two phase system was used to accomplish and analyse the object tracking. The ability to identify players from a bird’s eye perspective was trained into a Faster-RCNN object detection neural network.
Event and stadium logistics
In-stadium or event catering can benefit from the use of drones. Consider this! Wouldn’t it be lovely to not have to wait in line to get your hamburger or drink? Instead, you will use an app on your phone to place your order while seated. The drone will deliver your order a little while later. Obviously, this won’t happen for a while because a full throng would likely cause congestion over your head. But with AI, this problem may be resolved much more quickly.
Given that drones are already able to handle big objects, concession stalls may be expected to be stocked by drones as needed. When compared to land delivery, air delivery is anticipated to become a more effective mode of transportation.
Pre-game and halftime entertainment
Fans can be entertained by drones before a game and/or at halftime. With the fans, a variety of interactive games may be played. Let me indulge in some fantasy: Drones that are putting on a spectacular show, highlighting the hometeam; drones that are dropping presents or footballs or whatever in the area of the stadium that makes the loudest noise; drones that are delivering the gameball; and drones that are dropping balls to specific fans on the field who are trying to catch them. The creatives among us can probably come up with a tonne of various possibilities for this.
The NFL deployed 300 airborne drones to fly a lighted American flag and other emblems over Houston’s NRG Stadium during Lady Gaga’s Super Bowl LI halftime show in 2017. Aerial drones were used for the first time in a public television broadcast during this one.
Broadcasting: a better viewing experience
Whereas humans are unable to fly, drones can. Until now, camera placements have remained constant. The flycam, a camera mounted on a wire that might provide an excellent view from above, was just recently invented. But with drones, broadcasting may enter a completely new age. Drones can follow the action and get some incredible shots that the flycam can’t. Due to safety requirements, it can still take some time, but it will be there!
In this sense, sports broadcasting won’t be what it once was. Fans will have a far better viewing experience than before. Drone support will greatly improve coverage of events from an outdoor standpoint. For instance, drones may now live stream offshore sailing competitions like the Ocean Race. However, there’s more! What to consider when watching motoGP, Formula One, or adventure racing from above or in a sideways manner. Just consider the possibilities for a moment. Drones will deliver both the sensation and the sights. As though you were actually there. It will imply that watching sports will start to seem like an adventure.
New sports: drone racing and drone soccer
Since humans are creative, it didn’t take long for drone racing to become a new sport. The race between drones with cameras that are controlled by pilots wearing head-mounted displays that relay the drones’ live video feed is very amazing. The objective is to finish a course as soon as possible. It may be done both indoors and outside in stadiums, and it does produce some wonderful and breathtaking sights. This appeals to Gen Z without a doubt given the (game-like)technology it needs.
Drones may be able to make judgments more accurately than humans with the aid of AI. They are probably just going to be utilised temporarily as a type of backup tool that can support the referee rather than take his position. However, given how quickly AI is developing, I would not rule out a drone referee that is aided by a human and can handle things like player behaviour and emotions. In any event, drones will reduce the amount of refereeing errors, which will result in a more fair game.
Aerial mapping for great terrain overview
Undoubtedly, a drone is helpful in mapping and surveying the ground below. If you play golf, I’m confident that you have previously seen the brief, pithy movies of drones providing an overview of each individual hole on a specific course. This manner, you are aware of what to anticipate. Of course, there are a plethora of other sports that may benefit from mapping. Consider activities like mountain biking, adventure racing, and skiing. Getting ready is half the fun!