Drones used to film team practices
Cowboys boss says it lets him ‘coach better’
National Football League teams have taken to the skies in their search for a competitive edge, launching drones to film their practices.
“You can coach better. You see hand placement, you see where they have their feet and where they have their eyes,” said Jason Garrett, coach of the Dallas Cowboys.
The problem is, it’s illegal to fly the unmanned aircraft for any commercial purpose without first getting a Federal Aviation Administration waiver.
The FAA, when asked about drone use by three teams, said it has been in contact with the Cowboys to “explain the proper procedure for obtaining the necessary exemption.” It plans to reach out to two other teams that used the devices to film their own workouts: the New York Giants and the New England Patriots.
It won’t be the first time the Patriots are asked about their camera work. The team was fined by the league in 2007 for surreptitiously videotaping competitors’ play signals from the sidelines.
It’s currently embroiled in a scandal involving allegations they under-inflated footballs.
The FAA grants exemptions allowing people to use drones if they agree to follow procedures designed to reduce the risk of injury to people on the ground or interference with aircraft.
Even small drones can harm someone if they fall from the sky or entangle fingers in the rotors.
More than 600 individuals and businesses, from farmers to filmmakers, have obtained FAA waivers as drone use booms. They’re using them to survey land, inspect power lines and photograph real estate.
None of the three teams has an exemption or provided evidence the drones were being operated by someone with permission. Using drones in an indoor facility, or when operated by a contractor with FAA authorization, would be legal.
The Patriots and Cowboys wouldn’t say who operates their drones. Media reports say the Cowboys’ drone was used during the recent rookie mini-camp by Southern Methodist University’s athletic department. SMU spokesman Samuel Ogden said they didn’t have FAA permission.
The Giants’ fly a DJI Phantom 3 themselves, according to spokesman Pat Hanlon. That model weighs less than three pounds.
The team’s video department practised in an unoccupied field for three weeks before having it hover for 20 minutes 50 feet (15 metres) over the players and coaches at a mini-camp, the team said on its website. Quarterbacks Eli Manning and Ryan Nassib “didn’t even notice it,” the team said.
Asked about the legality of the drone use, Hanlon said he couldn’t comment because the people he would need to speak with were unavailable in the off-season. Patriots spokesman Travis Basciotta also declined to comment. Cowboys spokesman David Abbruzese said the person who could discuss the matter was unavailable but provided a link to a video on the team’s website of Garrett talking to reporters last month about the team’s use of drones.
There is more NFL drone use than the three teams Bloomberg initially asked the FAA about. On June 16, Tennessee Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt said they used one.