Drones Buzz Sochi

UAVs are changing the way we watch sports

Anyone can record high-definition aerial video with a setup like this for around $1,000.     Photo: alexsalcedo/Thinkstock

During this weekend’s Olympic coverage, many spectators noticed a small, spiderlike drone zipping around the slopes of Sochi. Well, get used to it. Camera-carrying drones are likely to become the norm at large sporting events. These unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can capture angles, get close to athletes, and highlight new perspectives like nothing before.

What’s unique about the drones being used at the Olympics is their ability to transmit high-definition video to live TV. These aren’t your hobby shop RC helicopters; top-of-the-line units can cost up to $40,000, and that doesn’t include the often more expensive camera you’re trusting the drone to fly.

Following Amazon’s announcement about using drones for delivery, the United Arab Emirates has started its own UAV system. The six-month pilot program will deliver IDs and driver’s licenses to citizens across the seven emirates. A full-time drone service will be rolled out early next year.

Also this weekend, a Connecticut man flew his drone-mounted camera over a fatal car crash near Hartford. Although the police did not arrest him for flying the drone, their report was a catalyst for a separate FAA investigation. The FAA still prohibits using drones for any sort of commercial use in the United States; however, the agency has recently authorized test programs, which will likely loosen regulations over time.

The Connecticut man was reportedly a freelance journalist with ties to a local news station. The station later said the man was not compensated for using his drone.

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