FOX Sports is a pioneer in the use of drones for its USFL broadcasts

FOX Sports television director Mitch Rigin grew up playing with remote-controlled aircraft.

This childhood fascination explains his enthusiasm when he learned that he would oversee the management of battery-powered devices as part of his adult profession.

“I was super amazed,” Rigin said. “It was exciting technology and exciting to have access to it.”

This is not only exciting, but the use of drones by FOX Sports as part of its first coverage of the new US Football League (USFL) is also innovative.

“Regarding the United States,” said Michael Davis, senior vice president of field and technical operations at FOX Sports, “I can say that we are certainly the first people to use drones in the gaming arena to play stick sports.” and a ball. “

FOX Sports has been using drones for supercross and golf – sports where you have more open space – for eight or nine years.

“It’s been in our bones for a long time,” Davis said.

But its use has intensified for NASCAR races during the Covid-19 pandemic. With no fans around, the drones had a place to roam and could provide unique close-ups.

Then FOX Sports performed a reported $ 150 million over three years as part of its stake in the USFL.

This gave FOX Sports – also a USFL broadcasting partner – the power to experiment with using drones as part of its coverage.

In addition, drones have become much safer as technology continues to advance. Custom devices have molded plastic guards and pieces of carbon fiber with soft foam as protection to prevent players and referees from cutting or cutting.

“It’s super safe,” Rigin said. “That was obviously our number one.”

In order for USFL players to get used to the presence of drones and the noise they make, the devices flew around them during training.

“All the players liked him,” Rigin said. “They were stealing in front of the camera.”

FOX Sports has two drones. The Heavy Lift is the smoother, slower-moving drone that Riggins compares to a helicopter.

Second, the smaller, faster first-person drone (FPV) is ideal for isolating photos of a wide receiver because it can follow the player from behind and then rotate forward once the wide receiver catches the ball.

In another case, Houston Gambles midfielder Reggie Northrup returned a touchdown of 90 yards, and the drone flew behind him.

“He’s incredibly agile and healthy,” said Beverly Hills Aerials co-pilot Michael Izkierdo. “We can make these shots that have never been possible before.”

This smaller drone, which was built and operated by Beverly Hills Aerials, is about six inches by six inches and weighs less than a pound. It has a personalized camera, transmitter and its own radio frequency. It has the ability to move faster than 100 mph, but is adapted to reach about 60 for use in the USFL, so it has a more efficient engine and flies longer.

The heavy drone is about seven feet wide, weighs about 55 pounds and costs in the range of $ 250,000.

Iskierdo, the drone pilot, is part of a crew of three. There is also an observer and technologist who releases it from the field and replaces the battery, which has 10 minutes of life but can be recharged in less than a minute.

The 10-week USFL regular season ends on June 19, but for the first first shot of FOX in the first week of April 16, the heavy drone flew off the field before the match and passed the mascots, cheerleaders and the championship trophy as players prepared to pass through the tunnel .

An Beverly Hills drone provided a panoramic view as it flew over the lake in front of SoFi Stadium before the Super Bowl LVI.

“It was not a reflection of the pitch,” Izkierdo said. “It’s more around the stadium.”

This is the extent of its use to cover the NFL. But drone technology embedded in USFL broadcasts continues to evolve.

“I hope,” Davis said, “that this is just the beginning.

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