Drones with cameras coming soon?

The NFL is always looking for new ways to present its game. The latest could be drones outfitted with cameras above practice fields and games.

There are sure to be some mystifying sights down at Mankato a little more than a month from now. There always are as fans go to varying lengths to show their allegiance to the team.

But one that may well be a test case by the NFL to explore the potential of using drone cameras to cover practices from angles not previously available on game tape – moving cameras that can follow the action from directly above that can change direction instantly.

The use of drones has been making news lately, as everyone from film companies to Amazon.com are looking at incorporating drones to enhance their businesses. Given the fans' insatiable appetite for the NFL, a new visual element in the future is surely something the league will explore.

While there are sure to be some safety concerns over hovering drones inside stadiums, the league is likely going to be looking for more remote locations to launch their drones. Training camp sites don't get much more remote than the Minnesota State, Mankato campus.

If the NFL opts to look at a pilot project for their unmanned cameras, the farm country of Mankato may be deemed one of the top potential test sites.

The NFL Network is looking into the potential of drone cameras and is planning to use drone technology during the network's Inside Training Camp series.

The NFL already has become involved with aerial photography with the Cablecam that hovers over the field with a camera that slides along cable wires from one end zone to the other. From the technological standpoint, drone cameras would likely be far superior to cable-carried cameras and would have many more options for use televising games, by coaching staffs, for a different angle in replay reviews, etc. Just as advancements render their predecessors obsolete, we may be nearing the era of the drone camera hovering around stadiums and practice fields.

The biggest issue may be safety. What goes up always comes down – whether planned or unplanned. In the early used of the Cablecam system, in October 2007, a Sunday night game between Seattle and New Orleans was delayed 10 minutes after a Cablecam malfunctioned and the camera came down on the turf. If there are safety clearances made, the drones could be operational this season.

It may sound a little like the NFL is going Star Wars with the presentation of their product, but who better to embrace the new technology than the sport that has brought more viewing innovations to its game than any other major sport.

If you're heading to Mankato for training camp, keep your eyes on the skies. There may be some visitors from above.


  • The Vikings have already been using Hi-Definition cameras mounted to select players' helmets during offseason practices for a look at what different players see when in practice.

  • In an interview with ESPN.com, Greg Jennings said that he believes Cordarrelle Patterson is going to be viewed as the go-to receiver and that big things are expected of him in his second season.

  • Former Viking Kevin Williams has reportedly been told that he will be on a play count with the Seahawks. Last year, Williams was on the field for 719 snaps. The plan is for Williams to play approximately 500 snaps to keep him fresh throughout the season in the Seattle D-line rotation.

    John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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