Only 3,000 commercial entities in America are allowed to legally fly drones, and now Jerry’s boys in Arlington (and soon Frisco), the Dallas Cowboys, can count themselves among the few. The Tennessee Titans, too, but we’ll hone in on America’s team.
As any football fan just a hair above casual knows, game film is a big advantage. Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said the usual filming done at practices only captures sideline and endzone shots, but it’s easy to see why aerial views are helpful. So after attending a SMU practice last that used drones to get a competitive edge, the Cowboys rolled it out in their rookie mini-camp. This is what coach Jason Garrett had to say of the benefits:
“It’s interesting because it gives you the chance from behind to see all 11 guys on offense and all 11 guys on defense but from a closer angle,” Garrett said. “Oftentimes you have to kind of pull yourself away to get the all-22 shot. This allows you to get a little closer so you can coach better. You can see hand placement. You see where they have their feet, where they have their eyes. I think that’s important. You can look at that and coach them better being that much closer to the action.”
But, of course the federal government has jurisdiction when it comes to airspace and flying drones without the Federal Aviation Administration’s go ahead, is illegal. However, noncommercial entities are free to drone as they please.
What they didn’t consider (or, well, maybe) was that commercial entities can’t fly drones without an OK from the Federal Aviation Administration. After the Cowboys got notified by the FAA that they aren’t exactly allowed to do this, they applied for a waiver, which approved their aerial shots until January 31, 2018. According to the Dallas Morning News, the FAA gave out roughly 700 for the commercial use of drones between September 2014 and June 2015. Interestingly, in September of last year, NFL Films was granted permission to fly drones, but didn’t have plans to tape practices and aren’t allowed to film stadiums during games. So it seems as though the only thing NFL Films gains is grand aerial shots of empty stadiums.
Even though the Cowboys are allowed to use their drones now, they have to follow 32 regulations, including that the drone is controlled by a licensed pilot, filming is only during the day, and the operator must send a letter with intended use at least three days before filming.
As it stands the Cowboys and Titans are the only lucky NFL teams allowed to use drones to film practices, but this seems as if it will be the new normal very soon. Who knows? Cowboys die-hards might get to see the technology in action during training camp in Frisco this summer. You know, so they can witness the rise of the machines before they rule us all.