UAVs promise game-console camera angles if regulations are eased

​Health and safety rules are grounding UAV filming potential but there is widespread feeling that as the technology advances and flying drones becomes more familiar that regulations will be relaxed. Assuming that to be the case, what shots might be possible in live sports or live events that are not possible now with jibs, spider-cams or helicopters?

It's a mouthwatering prospect with virtually unlimited potential reckons Jon Hurndall, co-founder, Batcam.

“Jibs and cranes will undoubtedly be a thing of the past,” he says. “Imagine game console-type camera angles, such as tracking overhead coverage of a football match or following a golf ball as the golfer hits it. It's a really exciting prospect and will really bring a new dimension to sports broadcasting especially.”

Batcam claims to be the leading UAV system provider to broadcasters in the UK. It provides live footage from its Batcam live systems, was the first drone operator to fly onsite at Wembley stadium during an event day – something it will be doing again on 30 May for the BBC's broadcast of the FA Cup Final. It has worked at various high profile soccer clubs including Manchester United, Newcastle, Aston Villa, Blackburn, Hull, Villa Park and Brighton.

Golf is one sport that would benefit from UAV angles. “On one hand, you need a versatile camera system that can provide wider/higher shots to illustrate distances to the viewer, but on the other achieve low shots to empathise undulation and variation in terrain,” says Hurndall.

Of course, this sector is heavily regulated by civil aviation regs and safety concerns and rightly so. The current standard permission from the CAA allow the UAV to be no closer than 50metres away from any structure or person that 'isn't under your control'. The crashing of a UAV into the groom at a wedding (causing injury but nothing more) may appear comic but whether pilot error or awol machine no-one wants the risk of lumps of metal falling out of the sky. Imagine too the insurance cost of flying drones anywhere near multi-million pound football or golf talent.

“In the future we see a shift to airworthiness testing,” says Hurndall. “Much the same as commercial aircraft. Only then, will regulation on distances be eased as the technology is proven and trusted and UAV's will presumably be able to fly overhead. Then we can expect to see some mind blowing coverage where literally anything is possible.”

The limits are the weight and size of onboard recorders. “You want something that is light enough not to affect flight times significantly and small enough to mount directly onto the gimbal. We either record internally in the camera, or use the Atomos Shogun, which is particularly great with the Panasonic GH4 as you get a 4K 10bit output.”

Battery tech is one aspect that hasn't changed much in years and subsequently has been holding UAV's back. Weight is a serious issue with drone usage, where machines over 7kg are restricted from flying in over London except in special permissions. Flight time also average around 15 minutes, mainly due to weight and battery power.

“Now, driven mostly by the automotive industry, money is being thrown into R&D into new battery tech,” he says. “We hope to see at least a doubling of flight times within the next couple of years. This in itself changes potential uses for broadcasters.”

Systems that are water and wind proof and can be in the air for the longest time possible are also valued.

“The most important thing in providing aerial shots for TV is that they are available when you need them in the show, not grounded by the UK's weather!”

Batcam is currently developing a system that it hopes will revolutionise live aerial filming. “It will be a complete system ready for broadcast and less of a customisation,” reveals Hurndall. “The end result will be bespoke to professional broadcast.

“Our five year plan incorporates various assumptions on how the UAV market/regulation will progress. As new technology is developed and tested the regulations will hopefully adapt with the tech. If, for example, collision avoidance is brought to a level where it is trustworthy, then we would expect to see an easing on distances to the public.”

You might also like...

Learning From The Experts At The BEITC Sessions at 2023 NAB Show

Many NAB Shows visitors don’t realize that some of the most valuable technical information released at NAB Shows emanates from BEITC sessions. The job titles of all but one speaker in the conference are all related to engineering, technology, d…

Magicbox Puts Virtual Production Inside An LED Volume On Wheels

Virtual production studios are popping up across the globe as the latest solution for safe and cost/time-effective TV and movie production. This method replaces on location shooting and, by utilizing all-encompassing LED walls (often called “volumes”), is fundamentally changing the…

Celebrating BEITC At NAB Show

As we approach the 2023 NAB Show in the NAB centenary year, we celebrate the unique insight and influence of the Broadcast Engineering & IT Conference that happens alongside the show each year.

Artificial Inspiration – Debating The Implications Of Training AI To Create Images

There is growing debate over the ethical and legal implications of using millions of images drawn from the internet to train AI powered software to create ‘new’ images. It feels like the beginning of a journey which could have profound imp…

Capturing Nitin Sawhney’s Ghosts In The Ruins

The 2022 City of Culture festival concluded with a performance created by Nitin Sawhney CBE. Filmed on the URSA Broadcast G2, an edited broadcast of Ghosts In The Ruins aired on the BBC.