Endless Possibilities for Drones in Sports at SXSW

todayMarch 8, 2014 107

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Credit: Ishmael Johnson
Ty Hildenbrandt and Ryan Baker

Writer and Photographer (Unless noted): Ishmael Johnson

Drones in Sports: The Sky’s the Limit was a panel at SxSW, part of SxSports, based around the innovation and cultivation of drone technology to further enhance the experience of sports coverage. Conducted by Ty Hildenbrandt, host of The Solid Verbal podcast, the session highlighted Ryan Baker CEO of Arch Aerial, which is a photography and videography company out of Austin that uses technology to capture unrivaled images and clips.

Before the session began, Hildenbrandt had to specify the type of drones he and Baker would be discussing since the concept of drone technology has recently been skewed by the media to be commonly seen as militaristic. Baker was kind enough to bring one of his models to the panel to give the audience a chance to see one in person. Although it was non-functioning due to the regulations of SxSW.

Both Baker and Hildenbrandt agreed that the possibilities are endless with drone technology. Although most of the current funding and appeal goes towards extreme sports simply due to the variety of angles and environments the sport is able to provide.

Hildenbrandt referenced the 2014 Winter Olympics and specifically the image below on his keynote display to give the audience a visual of what drones do for capturing sports moments like Sochi.

When talking about uses in other sports, Baker was able to talk about high school coaches using it to get a view on his players’ blocking schemes and techniques from a top-down perspective. Golf was also discussed as a possibility with its vast landscapes being a very attractive future destination for drone photography.

Credit: Ishmael Johnson
Hildenbrandt with the drone model

Baker also discussed the negative sides of the technology.

The current models are very limited in battery life and the technology is very unfamiliar to the mass public. Baker said he chooses not to demonstrate the technology in Austin or in any city because of the unpredictable reaction of the public witnessing something of that nature. He didn’t want to create a viral sensation that could be spun into negative publicity for his company. Baker also referenced Texas House Bill 912— the law that regulates the image capturing of unmanned vehicles— and how that creates a grey area in the field.

Despite the discussion of drone technology being, at times, full of engineering jargon, Hildenbrandt was there to provide an everyman prospective to the session as he, playfully, translated a few questions to make sense to the greater audience in attendance.

I had the honor of talking with Hildenbrandt after the session and got his views on Austin, drone technology and what it means for the home viewing experience.

Full interview:

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    Endless Possibilities for Drones in Sports at SXSW

Writer Notes:

Getting the chance to speak with Ty Hildenbrandt was a very enjoyable experience. I addressed him after the session as an attendant covering the panel, but first and foremost I was a fan.

I am in agreement with Hildenbrandt on his hope for college football to embrace drone technology analytically. As someone who is fascinated by the NBA’s increased shift toward tech-driven analysis with SportsVU, college football doing the same would certainly be a similar draw for me.

Drone technology is such a foreign concept to many, including myself, that aside from simple top down video and photos, anyone really knows where its limits are in the future, as the title said, the sky’s the limit.

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