Ranked by Forbes as the National Football League’s (NFL) “most valuable team for the ninth straight year” in 2015, the Dallas Cowboys – with a total team value of $4 billion as of September – is also noticing the value of drone technology and encouraging other sports teams to legally get on board.
On the heels of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) granting a commercial drone exemption to the NFL’s Tennessee Titans in November, the agency has now followed suit with the Cowboys.
Specifically, the Jan. 14 Section 333 exemption given to Jason Cohen – general counsel for the Dallas Cowboys Football Club Ltd. – says the organization can now implement “aerial data collection, videography and imaging of its training facilities” using a DJI Phantom 3 small unmanned aircraft system (sUAS). Notably, the Cowboys were one of the NFL teams reportedly investigated by the FAA last year for commercially operating drones without an exemption.
According to Cohen’s exemption petition, dated Aug. 4, 2015, these training facilities are situated in both Irving, Texas, and Oxnard, Calif. The petition notes that the sUAS operations would occur “solely on, above and within its privately owned training facilities in a controlled environment, at all times closed to unauthorized personnel.”
“The operations are intended to provide an aerial view of the football practices at the applicant’s outdoor training facilities. As such, the nature of the sUAS’ operations will be mostly stationary, hovering at a safe distance above and behind the athletes. The National Football League has rules in place regarding the distance in which an unmanned camera must remain away from players, with which applicant must comply,” the petition says.
Cohen brings up another point in the petition: that UAS technology is potentially safer than Skycam technology, which is currently used to film over the players.
“Skycams are a complex systems of pulleys, cables, bolts and fasteners – elements not present in sUASs. Tightly strung, heavy cables are attached at the highest point of stadiums, putting many people at risk if a wire snaps. The bulky Skycam itself weighs approximately 50 lbs. and could potentially cause serious injury if it were to fall from its guide wires. The sUAS, on the other hand, weighs less than 10 lbs. and is not tethered.”
Notably, it says, sUAS technology “presents an opportunity to significantly reduce the zone of danger and the risk of injury to the general viewing public.”
In turn, by implementing drones during practice, the Cowboys organization is “analyzing the viability” of the technology for use in future sports games – both college and professional, the petition explains.
“The presence of sUASs in American sports will only increase as teams begin to realize the enhanced safety and practical advantages from utilizing sUAS technology,” it continues.
The organization notes that it intends to spread the wealth: “Accordingly, by submitting this petition for exemption, the applicant hopes to encourage other teams utilizing sUASs to file their own petitions with the FAA – thus ensuring that this innovative technology is operated safely within the national airspace.”