MLB tests drones in aerial coverage of college baseball games

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As reflected in its adoption of wildly questionable rule changes in recent seasons, Major League Baseball is no longer the change-averse organization it once was. Now, MLB has shown it’s ready to innovate with TV coverage of the game, too, by showcasing video feeds from a DJI drone during a college tournament this weekend.

In a sign that America’s favorite pastime isn’t embracing the anti-China sentiment swirling in the nation’s capital — and bans on flying Chinese-made drones — MLB has deployed a DJI Inspire II for some actions during the “MLB4” college baseball tournament in Scottsdale, Arizona. In addition to flyovers to capture the full extent of the field and stadium, plans also called for the UAV to follow batters circling sacks after dingers and accompany pitchers as they move between the dugouts and the mound. Other potential situations were aerial shots of relievers trotting from the bullpen and time-stopping scenarios (although, presumably, not furious protests of blown umpire calls).

MLB’s DJI-delivered drone shots were scheduled to be featured in a pair of games between UC Berkeley and the University of Houston, and Texas Christian University vs. San Diego State at Salt River Fields – the shared spring training home of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies.

The DJI Inspire II was supplied with a Zenmuse X7 gimbal by Las Vegas-based drone company JibTek. The craft was operated by a single pilot supported by an observer, and preparations to add aerial cover began a full six weeks before the tournament. In addition to taking photos of the park’s interior and outdoor areas during play breaks, the drone had been tested for safe deployment around the yard without creating hazards for people below.

Until now, most drone use in baseball coverage has involved relatively high, distant shots of large areas, much like last year’s Field of Dreams game – essentially pastoral imagery during breaks . But MLB says its rollout of the DJI Inspire II was aimed at bringing the drones closer to the real action, players and baseball fans can never get enough of.

“Our plan is to do more than just take beauty shots,” said Chris Pfeiffer, senior coordinating producer, live events, MLB Network. Sports Video Group News the day before the tournament. “It will be part of the plan, but the main reason we’re here is to use (the drone) to help cover a baseball game. If there’s a home run, this drone leaves its roost and follow the batter around the bases. It’ll be in the field during the action. We’ll have some really cool pics while he’s out there… I’m not sure you’ve seen anything like this in a game baseball. We’re really excited for that.

For now, only MLB.tv subscribers who have tuned in can say how DJI drones fared in baseball’s first drone flight over the game (although their ability to capture stunning footage during workouts has already been proven by Jay Christensen’s jaw-dropping Jaybyrdfilms driving).

What is known, however, is that when Baseball Inc. opened up the skies above Salt River Fields to drones, it closed the clubhouses to its teams for at least a week. On the same day DJI and its drone covered the sport several feet above the diamond, MLB announced it had pushed back the start of spring training by a week — at least — as its dispute work and the locking of players continued endlessly. view.


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