Written by on Jan 23, 2015. Posted in On Location

ESPN to film with unmanned drones at Winter X Games in Colorado

American sports channel ESPN will use miniature drones this weekend to film the Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado. The broadcaster has been given permission by agencies including the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which relaxed drone filming rules last year.

Commercial drones are usually small, remotely-operated devices with multiple rotor blades that carry cameras in specially designed cradles. Often one operator will fly the drone and another will control the camera movements.

Flying unmanned drones for commercial purposes was banned in the US until September last year when six US production companies were given permission to use them, with operational restrictions.

ESPN won’t be allowed to fly drones over spectators at the Winter X Games and they’ll need to be mindful of air traffic coming and going from Aspen’s airport nearby, Associated Press reports.

"Any piece of technology we feel brings viewers closer to the event, we're interested in," said Chris Calcinari, who led ESPN’s efforts for approval, in comments to the agency: "I don't think there are many events that would actually allow us to fly a drone. This is a big opportunity."

Rich Feinberg, Vice President of Production for ESPN, added to the agency: "I'm as excited as anyone to see what this looks like. You can picture them flying in front of the pack of racers, next to them, or just about anything else.

“We want the viewer to hopefully feel like he or she is seeing something he's never seen before. If it gets them to watch a little longer, then we've achieved our goal.”

Any piece of technology we feel brings viewers closer to the event, we're interested in.

Chris Calcinari for ESPN

Unmanned drones have been used for commercial filming purposes outside the US for years, and often for filming big-budget studio films.

The devices remain controversial. In the UK a report was recently issued with guidelines on how drone operators could avoid breaching data protection laws, given the potential for filming people who are not aware they’re appearing on camera.

(Images: Cloud 12, Corey Rich Productions, Dedicam of Switzerland)

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